Saturday, April 25, 2015

Heartbreak and History
April 25, 2015 marks the centennial of one of the bloodiest battles of World War I: Gallipoli, or the Battle of the Dardanelles. Raging over the course of nine months, it is regarded as one of Winston Churchill's greatest military mistakes. The peninsula of Gallipoli is situated in the south and European part of Turkey between the Aegean Sea and the Straits of the Dardanelles. Churchill's aim was to attack Turkey and force its ally Germany to divide its forces into two fronts, but the campaign was doomed. Even though three British Navy ships were sunk scouting the landing area months before, losing any element of surprise, Churchill insisted on engaging well-entrenched Turkish troops with wave after wave of Allied soldiers in a futile attempt to gain ground. Eventually, the total distance they managed to secure was less than one mile inland at the cost of an estimated 132,000 lives--86,000 alone were Turks.

                        Anzac, the landing 1915 by George Lambert, 1922 shows the landing at Anzac Cove, 25 April 1915; courtesy of Wikipedia
Gallipoli is observed as ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand because the campaign marked the first time the former colonies of the British Empire participated in any conflict as independent nations --and the toll they paid in the loss of young men was high, approximated at more than 11,400 of the 25,000 British Commonwealth troops killed. Here is where the legend of Australian and New Zealand modern military bravery began, written in many stories, and written in blood. 

Why am I blogging about this today? Because a dear friend from Sydney traveled halfway around the world to be there on Gallipoli, in the predawn cold, to honor her country's fallen heroes, to keep their stories alive.
Prince Charles, Prince Harry, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and other dignitaries were also there.
(Yes, those are the same peaks as in the painting.)
I, too, would like to pay my respects. Someday, another tale may be written...


If you want to watch a fairly decent movie about the battle, check out the 1981 film (with a young Mel Gibson) Gallipoli:


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Yesterday I heard a feature on NPR about this anniversary. My husband doesn't know how they defined foreign war -- because of the Maori Wars, which in my opinion don't fall under the same category. They were fought in NZ.

Jude Johnson said...

Perhaps it has more to do with New Zealanders fighting as a separate nation as opposed to colonists fighting the indigenous people? I don't know for certain, but either way seems to be a terrible loss of life.