Anzac Day commemorates the brave soldiers who fought and lost their lives during the infamous Gallipoli Campaign in Turkey. Today, thousands of people travel to the moving battlefield sites to pay tribute at the cemeteries and memorials and attend the dawn service on 25 April each year. By tracing the footsteps of the Anzacs in Turkey, we can pay our respects and learn many important lessons that history should never forget.
Anzac Day and the Battle of Gallipoli
The devastating Battle of Gallipoli lasted eight months from 1915 to 1916. Over 130,000 brave souls died on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey. It was one of the most horrifying battles in the history of Australia and New Zealand, with the deaths of over 8,700 Australians and 2,700 New Zealanders. The battle also saw the deaths of over 85,000 Turks, 21,200 British, 10,000 French and 1,350 Indians.
The first Anzacs landed on the Gallipoli beaches on 25 April 1915. That day is now known as Anzac Day, a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand. It’s also remembered as a defining moment in the history of Turkey. But Anzac Day goes beyond the anniversary of the Gallipoli landing.
It’s a day to remember all who served and died in wars and conflicts and to remember the spirit of the Anzac. Their values of courage, mateship, good humour and endurance remain an important part of the national identities of Australia and New Zealand. By coming together to commemorate this day, the spirit of the Anzacs lives on.
Anzac Day Dawn Service at Gallipoli
Cross the Dardanelle Strait as the Anzacs did to witness the stirring dawn tribute near Anzac Cove on Anzac Day. It’s an early start, but you’ll feel an incredible pulse of energy as tens of thousands of people gather to pay tribute to the fallen soldiers.
The bugle ringing out with a moving rendition of ‘The Last Post’ as the sun rises over the beach is something you’ll never forget. You can also attend the Australian memorial service held at Lone Pine and the New Zealand memorial service at Chunuk Bair (all are welcome).
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Top Anzac sites to visit in Gallipoli
Anzac Cove is the most famous site on the Gallipoli Peninsula. This is where the men of the Anzac Corps first came ashore on 25 April 1915. The small cove is only 600 metres long, and the soldiers were immediately sent into battle along the Second Ridge. Unbeknownst to the troops, the cove was within easy range of Turkish soldiers, who were able to inflict massive casualties.
Within the first week, over 27,000 Anzacs had landed at Gallipoli. By 1 May 1915, Anzac Cove was the main base for the Australian and New Zealand troops for the bloody eight months of the Battle of Gallipoli.
After the battle
In 1934, Kemal Atatürk delivered a poignant speech to the first Australians, New Zealanders and British to visit the Gallipoli battlefields. The Turks later inscribed the words on a monolith at Ari Burnu Cemetery at Anzac Cove, which was unveiled in 1985. You can also find the words on the Kemal Atatürk Memorial in Canberra and the Atatürk Memorial in Wellington.
“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives (in Gallipoli). 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 living in our bosom and are in peace. Having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
The Gallipoli Dawn Service was traditionally held at Anzac Cove until 1999. With thousands of people attending the service, a new larger site was constructed on North Beach within easy walking distance of the cove. The site is known as the “Anzac Commemorative Site” and has been used since the 2000 dawn service.
Tens of thousands of Australians and New Zealanders now make the pilgrimage to Gallipoli each year for Anzac Day. They’re joined by equal numbers of Turks who travel here to pay their respects to commander Mustafa Kemal (the future Atatürk) and his courageous 57th Regiment.
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Lone Pine was the site of one of the most infamous battles of the Battle of Gallipoli. From 6 to 9 August 1915, the soldiers engaged in brutal hand to hand combat in the log covered trenches. The Australians attempted to take over the Turkish line and take their attention away from the battle at Chunuk Bair.
Although the battle was a rare success for the Anzacs, it came at a high price. Over 2,000 Australians and 7,000 Turks were killed or wounded. Today, the Lone Pine Memorial commemorates the 4,934 Australian and New Zealand troops killed here but who have no known grave.
The cemetery covers part of the original battlefield. One tree, raised from the seed of a Gallipoli cone, stands over the memorial. The Anzacs named the site Lone Pine after the Turks cut down all of the Aleppo pines except one lonesome pine.
As the second-highest peak of the Sari Bair range in Gallipoli, Chunuk Bair was a strategic point for the Allies. On 8 August 1915, the New Zealanders successfully took control of the peak
However, with no reinforcements coming in, the New Zealanders could not hold their position. Two days later, the Turks regained control and this marked the end of the effort to reach the central hills of Gallipoli Peninsula.
Today, the Chunuk Bair cemetery stands on the site. There are 632 Commonwealth serviceman buried there and a New Zealand National Memorial stands next to the Ataturk Memorial
North Beach lies next to Anzac Cove and is now the site of the Anzac Day Commemorative Service each year. On 25 April 1915, the first waves of the 11th Battalion from Western Australia landed on North Beach.
They struggled to move upwards to reach the plateau, with intense Turkish artillery raining down on them. After reaching the top, another battle began as they fired upon the Turks in an attempt to gain ground inland.
One of the men who landed on North Beach was Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick of the 3rd Field Ambulance. Known as the ‘man with the donkey’, Simpson heroically evacuated wounded men from the slopes of Shrapnel Valley using donkeys. He also searched the cliffs around North Beach and a distinctive rocky outcropped called the ‘Sphinx’ by the Anzacs.
Shrapnel Valley (or Shrapnel Gully) was an important site in the Anzac campaign. It was the main route for Allied troops to transport essential supplies to the front line along the Second Ridge.
It got its name as it was always under heavy Turkish fire. Many Anzacs lost their lives here, including Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick, who was shot and killed on 19 May 1915 while tending to the wounded. He is buried at Beach Cemetery at Hell Spit at the southern end of Anzac Cove.
Today, Shrapnel Valley is the second-largest cemetery on the Gallipoli Peninsula. It’s a beautiful memorial, with a judas tree in the centre that blooms with bright pink flowers.
Have you retraced the footsteps of the Anzac’s in Turkey? Let us know in the comments below…
Banner image credit: Jorge Láscar / Flickr