New Zealand Embassy Ankara, Turkey
Gallipoli and the ANZAC Commemorations
On 25 April 1915, eight months into the First World War, Allied soldiers landed on the shores of the Gallipoli peninsula. The troops were there as part of a plan to open the Dardanelles Strait to the Allied fleets, allowing them to threaten the Ottoman capital Istanbul and, it was hoped, force a Turkish surrender. The Allied forces encountered strong and courageous resistance from the Turks, and both sides suffered enormous loss of life.
The main Allied attack was in the south at Cape Helles, not at Anzac Cove and comprised thousands of soldiers from Britain, the wider British Empire, and France. The forces from New Zealand and Australia, the ANZACs (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps), played an important part in the Gallipoli campaign further up the peninsula’s coast. The ANZAC’s role was one of a diversion and to prevent Turkish troops from reinforcing the main landing further south. About 3100 of the 8556 New Zealanders who served at Gallipoli landed on 25 April at Anzac Cove. The first New Zealanders landed after 9am, with most landing after midday.
The Gallipoli campaign was a costly failure for the Allies, who after nine months abandoned the peninsula and evacuated their surviving troops. Almost a third of the New Zealanders who took part had been killed; this represents the highest percentage of fatalities of any First World War campaign in which New Zealanders fought. Small communities throughout the length and breadth of New Zealand counted the cost in the lengthy casualty lists that appeared in their newspapers.
Although Anzac Day, the anniversary of the first day of conflict, does not mark a military triumph, it does remind us of a very important episode in New Zealand's history. Great suffering was caused to a small country by the loss of so many of its young men. But the Gallipoli campaign showcased attitudes and attributes - bravery, tenacity, practicality, ingenuity, loyalty to King and comrades - that helped New Zealand define itself as a nation, even as it fought unquestioningly on the other side of the world in the name of the British Empire.
At the time the sacrifice seemed to have been in vain, for the under-resourced and poorly-conducted campaign did not have any significant influence on the outcome of World War I. However the Gallipoli Campaign was an awakening for New Zealand, a moment when a young nation emerged, tragically, onto the world stage as an independent identity separate from its colonial parent. The shared experience of Australian and New Zealand troops formed a strong foundation for lasting ties between our two countries. For the Turkish people, the conflict was an important event in the defence of its homeland. Turkish troops won the battle and the mutual respect of their foes, but at tremendous cost.
Colonel Mustafa Kemal, the Turkish commander of the battle, went on to become the first President of Turkey. Today New Zealanders, Australians and Turks stand beside each other, with a strong and friendly relationship, and work together to achieve a peaceful, secure and prosperous world. Gallipoli is a symbol of how these bonds, forged in the horrors of battle, but strengthened over the years by people of goodwill on all sides, sought to build a better and more peaceful world. In doing so we live up to the words of President Atatürk: “Peace at home, peace in the world”
Atatürk’s statue beside the New Zealand National Memorial at Chunuk Bair is a fitting symbol of the friendship between our two countries today. This is echoed in New Zealand when, on every ANZAC Day, Atatürk’s extraordinary message of reconciliation is read by the Turkish Ambassador at the Atatürk Memorial in Wellington.
Those heroes who 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 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 bosoms and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they become our sons as well.
- 260 - days of the Gallipoli Campaign
- 8556 - NZ forces landed: 4852 NZ forces wounded, 2721 NZ forces fatalities
- 8709 - Australian forces fatalities
- 33,072 - fatalities from all British forces
- 10,000* - French fatalities
- 87,000* - Turkish fatalities
ANZAC Gallipoli commemoration services 2015
For information on the ANZAC commemoration services for 2015 please visit the Gallipoli 2015 website by clicking on the link