Monthly Archives: April 2008

Why commemorate a defeat?


Beach of Gallipoli 26.4.1915

“Those heroes that shed their blood
And lost their lives…
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly Country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
Here in this country of ours…
You, the mothers,
Who sent their sons from far away countries
Wipe away your tears,
Your sons are now lying in our bosom
And are in peace
After having lost their lives on this land
They have become our sons as well.

From a speech by Turkish president Ataturk (previously COL Mustapha Kemal 9th Division, Turkish Army) to ANZAC sojourners in Turkey in 1934.

ANZAC is a defining day for Australia. As an infant country only 14 years old, Australia was eager to show the world who it was. Much like the teenagers that volunteered to battle in foreign countries for their King, the country was full of energy and a sense of adventure. This is the mindset of the soldiers and those at home when the soldiers were landed on the beaches of Gallipoli at 4.30am on the 25 April.

The fighting that last less than 8 months was hard in bitter conditions for both sides. Though the Turks has superior numbers and the high ground, they were unable to budge the ANZAC and other allied forces who clung to the cliff edges. During this time many great legends were created, Simpson and his donkey, Lone Pine,naked jaunts to the beach, giving of gifts between enemy lines even the secret departure. The respect between enemies was mutual with the President of Turkey, a colonel at Gallipoli himself making the memorable quote above.

ANZAC day was commemorated the next year in remembrance of the lives lost at Gallipoli all over Australia and even among troop still serving. Billy Hughes, Prime Minister of the time, in a speech to ANZAC’s who were now serving on the Western front said, “We’ve been proud to call ourselves Australians after you made a name for yourselves at Galipolli.”

And I think Billy says it all. Gallipoli as not a military victory, but then again Australia is not known as a military nation. What Gallipoli did show was a courage under outrageous conditions, comradeship and dedication to the job at hand that even today are characters that are cherished in our society. Why commemorate a defeat? It was the beginning of a nations identity.