Gallipoli

When the First World War broke out, Ottoman Empire was neutral and was in chaotic situation. Endless wars, especially Balkan Wars had ruined its treasury and armies. It had already lost huge provinces with its peoples. Its military forces were directed by the British, French and German military advisers and they were now into each other’s throat. Ottoman government turned to German side when the British government rejected Ottoman proposal for an alliance.  

Two German warships that given permission by the Ottoman cabinet to pass the Dardanelles bombed the Russian port towns. This meant that the Ottomans were in war. The First Lord of the Admiralty of Britain Churchill argued that if two German warships were enough to put Ottomans into war, the arrival of the half a dozen such ships would get Ottomans out of the war! All the battleships of the British and French Armadas were called to the entrance of the Dardanelles. After some raids, the full assault began on the morning of 18th of March. Ottomans had some horizontal sea mine lines to protect the Dardanelles and British side new all about it. However they were not aware of a sea mine line set in the last minutes. This sea battle was a complete disaster for Britain and France. Their famous warships were struck either by gunfire or sea mines.    

Then Britain and France decided to make a landing, stop the gunfire, clean the sea mines to have a safe passage from the Dardanelles. On 25th of April early in the morning about 4:30 landings started on different beaches. There were French landings on Besige Bay in Kumkale on the Asian side of the Dardanelles, British landings on five different locations in Cape Helles in the tip of the Gallipoli Peninsula, on the European side of the Dardanelles and ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) landings on Ariburnu in the Gallipoli Peninsula.

Three boats took first 1500 ANZAC soldiers to the rocky seaside of Ariburnu on that dark night. All together 60000 Australians and 8500 New Zealanders fought here.

Ottoman headquarters puzzled after hearing all these landings and thought the main landing was coming to somewhere else. That is why did not give any order to direct the forces. At the same time, Mustafa Kemal moved his soldiers towards the sea that he heard the gunfire from. He saw a group of Ottoman soldiers running up to the hill in full retreat. They did not have any bullet but Mustafa Kemal ordered them to fix their bayonets and lie down in a line. He stopped the ANZAC soldiers there and said later on that the battle was won on that crucial point.

Following days were for furious fights. Meanwhile both sides reinforced their armies with new troops.  In 19th of May, Ottoman forces attacked to ANZAC forces in order to drive them back to the sea. It failed with huge loses. However, position of the fronts did not change much.

Allied Forces desired to have a change in the direction of the Gallipoli War. That is why they decided to open a new front by new landings in Sugla Bay on 6th of August. These new landings in Sugla Bay made the battle more furious too. Nevertheless, the Ottoman front kept its position under the commandment of Mustafa Kemal Pasha.  

After these days, the Allied Forces lost their hope of destroying Ottoman Forces and having a safe passage through the Dardanelles. The Allied Forces pulled out from Sugla Bay and ANZAC sections in December 1915 and from Cape Helles in January 1916.

All together one million men from many nationalities fought in Gallipoli and three nations built up their nationhood there: Australians, New Zealanders and Turks. That is why the ANZAC section for Australians and New Zealanders and the whole Gallipoli Peninsula for the Turks became a national pilgrimage destination today.

The Australians and New Zealanders who visit Lone Pine or Chunuk Bair Memorials are welcomed in the ANZAC landing beach by the words of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk the Turkish hero of the Gallipoli War. Those words uttered in 1934 help us to understand that he knew how to make war and certainly, he knew how to make peace too…


“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 Mehmets to us where they lay 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.”
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