The Turkish Remembrance of Gallipoli

al68
King & Country AL68 – Turkish Machine Gunner lying prone

As we approach November 11th and the ceremonies organized to commemorate what it represents, the theme of remembrance occupies a special place in my readings.

Just the other day, I found a very interesting and informative article about the historical evolution of the Remembrance of the Gallipoli campaign in Turkey, under the pen of Mesut Uyar of the University of New South Wales in Canberra (Australia) in First War Studies.

Since the evacuation of the last Anzac troops at dawn on December 20th 1915, marking a Turkish victory, the process of memory and remembrance on the Turkish side has been all but easy. Subjected to political, religious, military and identity considerations – just to quote these examples – Turkish people incessantly advocated the development and promotion of awareness of the sacrifices of their fellow citizens during that famous campaign. And it is one of the most interesting aspects of this article. Family and friends of veterans, soldiers and officers who served and fought on the peninsula along with university students were at the vanguard of this evolution.

At the entrance of the Australian War Memorial, in Canberra, the visitors can see a whale boat that served to transport the troops on the shores of Gallipoli, in front of which the following inscription is displayed: “The Australian nation was born on the shore of Gallipoli.”

With our Western eyes and conceptions, it is often too easy to focus exclusively on the military feats of Australians, New Zealanders and other Allied troops and to ignore the gallantry of the Turkish soldiers and their commanders – the most notorious being Mustafa Kemal Atatürk – founder of the Republic of Turkey. Doing so, we forfeit the opportunity to better understand and appreciate the impact of the Gallipoli campaign in the national identity and consciousness of Turkey, a country that is not only member of NATO but also an ally in the fight against terror.

Thanks to military historians like Mesut Uyar, we can better appreciate the efforts deployed by the Turkish people to bring the valor of their ancestors on the battlefield to our attention and appreciation.

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