Gallipoli and the Anzacs

You are here:
Print this page Reduce font size Increase font size

A walk around 14 battlefield sites

11. Turkish Memorial

Audio commentary:

Click to listen, or download the audio version of this page to your phone, tablet or laptop here.

Stop/rewind audio Play/pause audio
Select the language of the audio-commentary to play:


Leave Quinn’s Post Cemetery and go back to the road. Turn left and proceed up the hill until you reach the large statue of a Turkish soldier on your left.

We respect the Turk

Photo story

Photo: see caption and story below

Esat Pasha, the commander of the 3rd Turkish Corps and some of his officers. [AWM A05295] ... Enlarge photo

Esat Pasha, the commander of the 3rd Turkish Corps, responsible for the northern area of the Gallipoli campaign which included the Anzac area, sitting at a table surrounded by some of his officers. The Allied commanders, to their cost, greatly underestimated the qualities of both ordinary Turkish soldiers and their leaders in 1915. Hans Kannengiessr, a German officer who served with the German Military Mission at Gallipoli, wrote of Esat:

I always had complete confidence … in his sustained and real kindness, his quick grasp of proposals, which, after calm, careful consideration, resulted in clear decisions.

[Hans Kannengiesser, The Campaign in Gallipoli, London, no date, p 85] [AWM A05295]

This larger than life sized representation of the ordinary Turkish soldier, rifle in hands, faces determinedly downhill. This was how the Turkish soldiers on the day of the invasion of their country – 25 April 1915 – faced the Anzacs coming up these slopes from the beach towards the heights of Chunuk Bair. On the slopes behind the monument leading up to what was called Battleship Hill was fought one of the most crucial actions of the Battle of the Landing and it was here that the capability and courage shown by the Turks sealed the fate of the Anzacs.

Before the invasion the fighting capacities of the Turkish army had not been highly regarded. The power and effectiveness of the old ‘Ottoman Empire’ had been declining for nearly a century and in any invasion of Turkey it was thought that British cold steel and determination would soon sweep aside the defenders in a triumphant assault. When the Australians first landed they encountered small bodies of Turks who, after doing what they could, withdrew back over the ridges. The main Turkish forces in the area had been held in reserve to see just where the British Empire troops were going to land on the peninsula. By 6.30 am a report had reached the commander of the Turkish 19th Division, Colonel Mustafa Kemal, that an enemy force had scaled the heights at Ari Burnu. Kemal’s troops were at Bigali, a small village off to the east beyond the main range, and he ordered his whole division to prepare to march to the coast. He himself set off riding at the head of the 57th Regiment.

Photo story

Photo: see caption and story below

Lieutenant Colonel Mustafa Kemal, commander of the 19th Turkish Division at Gallipoli. [AWM A05319] ... Enlarge photo

Lieutenant-Colonel Mustafa Kemal, commander of the 19th Turkish Division at Gallipoli, 1915. Kemal’s leadership of Turkish troops at Anzac during two crucial periods – the Battle of the Landing (25 April-3 May) and The Battle of Chunuk Bair (7-10 August 1915) – was of great importance. During the Battle of the Landing, Kemal has been credited with one of the most famous orders issued to Turkish troops during the whole campaign – ‘I don’t order you to attack, I order you to die. In the time which passes until we die other troops and commanders can take our place’. After the war, Kemal went on to be become the first President of the Turkish Republic in October 1923. He became known as Atatürk, meaning father of Turks, for his modernisation of the country after centuries of Ottoman rule.

Cast your eyes up along the main road to the very top of the range, the heights of Chunuk Bair. By about 9.30 am Kemal stood there with some other officers. He could see the British warships and transports off Anzac Cove and also, coming rapidly up the hill towards him, a group of Turkish soldiers who had been tasked with defending Hill 261 (Battleship Hill). Kemal spoke to them:

‘Why are you running away?’ ‘Sir, the enemy’, they said. ‘Where?’ ‘Over there’, they said, pointing out hill 261 … I said to the men who were running away, ‘You cannot run from the enemy’. ‘We have got no ammunition’, they said. ‘If you haven’t got any ammunition, you have got your bayonets’, I said, and shouting to them, I made them fix their bayonets and lie down on the ground’. When the men fixed their bayonets and lay down on the ground the enemy also lay down …

[Kemal quoted in Robert Rhodes James, Gallipoli, London, 1999, p 113]

Kemal was later to see this as one of the most crucial moments of the day. The advancing Anzacs had been temporarily halted and he sent at once to have the advance units of the 57th Regiment sent up. For the rest of the day Kemal’s men and, in a series of bloody counter-attacks, the soldiers of the 27th Regiment further south at Lone Pine, held back the Anzac attempts to advance. The Anzacs were unable to progress any further than those positions they would ultimately occupy for eight months at Gallipoli. On 25 April 1915, the Anzacs discovered that Turkish soldiers, well led and fighting for their homeland, would stand up to them.

Photo: see caption below

Turkish soldiers in a trench at Gallipoli. [AWM H13569] ... Enlarge painting

This Turkish steadfastness was revealed at Quinn’s Post after the failed Turkish counter-attack of 19 May 1915. On that morning 3,000 Turkish dead lay out along the ridge below the Turkish Soldier Memorial and a further 7,000 had been wounded. Anzac intelligence interpreters, sensing that the Turks may have been demoralised by the spectacular failure of their attack, called out from the trenches at Quinn’s that they would be well treated if they surrendered. The most common response was a bomb or a bullet. On another occasion a surrender message was thrown into the Turkish lines and the reply came back – ‘You think there are no Turks left. But there are Turks, and Turks’ sons!’ 

The nature of war meant that the Australian soldiers hardly had any social contact with their enemies. The only ones they were likely to meet were prisoners who were made to labour at times in the Anzac position. While most Turkish POWs were taken to the islands, a POW cage was established in the hills behind Anzac Cove. On one occasion Bean observed prisoners in this cage being subjected to threatening behaviour by one or two Anzacs and he ‘wondered why someone hadn’t the decency to hit the man who did it straight in the face’. But generally, the Anzacs recognised in the Turk a fellow sufferer and acknowledged his humanity. In his poem ‘Anzac’ Lieutenant Oliver Hogue wrote:

I reckon the Turk respects us, as we respect the Turk;
Abdul’s a good, clean fighter – we’ve fought him, and we know.

Charles Bean’s account

Send us milk

Anyway, near daybreak one morning there came out of their trench at Quinn’s a packet tied to a string, thrown so it lobbed near our parapet and lay outside between the trenches. Of course, our sentries waited for it to explode or fizz or burst into smoke or some such devilry. The sergeant near it looked at it very carefully through a telescope. While he was looking Turkish hands must have come up and waved and then a cautious head. A head our side went up too, and gradually a line of heads on each parapet; and before the sergeant knew what was happening the man next him had climbed up on to the parapet and stepped round the netting and into the deadly area between the trenches and was bringing back the packet. It was a small packet of cigarettes. In it, scrawled in indelible pencil and in badly spelt French, were the words, “A Notre Herox Ennemis” ( To our heroic enemies ). “Bully beef non.” Of course some return had to be made, and so our men threw over a tin or two of bully beef. Presently back flew a piece of paper wrapped round a stone. It read “Bully beef non.” After that we threw some sweet biscuits and a tin of jam. Other cigarettes came back. I have seen some of them. They had on them the same penciled writing, “Notre Cher Enemi” or “Femez – probably meant for “Prenez – A Vee Plessir”: that is, “To our dear enemy – “Take with pleasure”; another reads :Envoyez Milk” (“Send us milk”). Then one of them waved down with his hands and shouted “Fini”. And our men waved back, and down gradually went the two lines of smiling heads, and after a pause of a minute or two the bombs began to fly again. They had begun at half-past 8 and they lasted until about a quarter past 9. The same courtesies repeated themselves next morning.

[Charles Bean, dispatch, Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, 13 January 1916, p.92]

Photo story

Photo: see caption and story below

Turkish prisoners at Anzac. [AWM G00456] ... Enlarge photo

Turkish prisoners of war at Anzac. The Turkish soldiers were kept near the beach but many were quickly sent away to Lemnos Island or Egypt. Captain Aubrey Herbert, an Intelligence Officer and interpreter with the New Zealand and Australian Division, had the job of questioning many of the Turkish prisoners of war:

Examined sixteen prisoners. Food good, munitions plentiful, morale all right. The individuals fed up with the war, but the mass obedient and pretty willing. No idea of surrendering. They think they are going to win.

[Aubrey Herbert, Mons, Anzac and Kut, 5 June 1915] Click here to go to the internet edition, Housed at the University of Kansas' Electronic Library (link leaves this website)

A digger’s account

Mustafa Kemal on 25 April 1915

The scene which met our [Mustafa Kemal’s] eyes was a most interesting one. To my mind it was the most vital moment of the occurrence.

Just then I saw men of a detachment who had been placed on hill Point 261

(Battleship Hill ) to the south of Chunuk Bair to observe and cover the shore from there, running back towards, in fact fleeing towards, Chunuk Bair ….. Confronting these men myself, I said, ‘Why are you running away?’ ‘Sir, the enemy’, they said. ‘Where?’ ‘Over there’, they said, pointing out hill 261.

In fact a line of skirmishers of the enemy approached hill 261 and was advancing completely unopposed. Now just consider the situation. I had left my troops, so as to give them ten minutes’ rest. The enemy had come to this hill. It meant the enemy was nearer to me than my troops were, and if the enemy came to where I was my troops would find themselves in a very difficult position. Then, I still don’t know what it was, whether a logical appreciation or an instinctive action, I do not know. I said to the men who were running away, ‘You cannot run away from the enemy.’ ‘We have got no ammunition’, they said. ‘If you haven’t got any ammunition, you have your bayonets’, I said, and shouting to them, I made them fix their bayonets and lie down on the ground. At the same time I sent the orderly officer beside me off to the rear to bring up to where I was at the double those men of the infantry regiment who were advancing on Chunuk Bair who could reach it in time. When the men fixed their bayonets and lay down on the ground the enemy also lay down. The moment of time that we gained was this one ….. It was about 10.00 hours when the 57th Regiment began its attack.

[Robert Rhodes James, Gallipoli, London, 1999, pp.113]

Photo story

Photo: see caption and story below

A Turkish soldier’s belt-buckle from the Gallipoli campaign. [AWM REL/02484] ... Enlarge

A Turkish soldier’s belt-buckle from the Gallipoli campaign. It displays the crescent moon and star, the symbol of Imperial Army of the Ottoman Empire and the words engraved on the crescent in old Ottoman Script translate as ‘Imperial Army’. The crescent and star on a red background was also adopted as the flag of the Republic of Turkey. The buckle was picked up at Anzac by either Private Quintin Hunter, 9th Battalion, Queensland, or Trooper John Bowldich-Swayne, 5th Light Horse Regiment, Queensland.

A digger’s account

Slightly educated, brave, and trustworthy

The Turkish soldier, the “Asker”, was the Anatolian and Thracian, slightly educated, brave, trustworthy, of whom a large majority were Anotolians. Content with little, it never entered into his mind to dispute the authority of those above him. He followed his leader without question even in attack in the face of the enemy. It is the will of Allah. He is deeply religious and regards this life as the first stage to a better. In the midst of shelling, shortly before the entry of the battalion into battle, the Imam, or the battalion priest, generally held a short address. The impression left on the onlooker was always curious, particularly when at those points in the address an “Inschallah” (we ask Allah to give it to us) rose over the thirsty plain in earnest but happy tones from hundreds of men’s deep voices. One evening, as the jackals were already howling, the address appeared to me to last far too long. The battalion was urgently needed at the front, but nevertheless I did not dare to make a move. That would have been regarded as an evil action, coming from me as a Christian. The Imam were often splendid men with great and good influence on the soldiers, and in the event of all the officers being killed they took control, sometimes taking control of the battalion.

The Asker bears the heaviest wound with wonderful stoicism. One only hears a small whimper, “Aman, aman.”. 

[Hans Kannengiesser, The Campaign in Gallipoli, London, no date, p.146]

Photo story

Photo: see caption and story below

Supposedly the first Turkish prisoner taken at Anzac resting on the deck of the transport ship Galeka. [AWM P02194.002] ... Enlarge photo

Supposedly the first Turkish prisoner taken at Anzac resting on the deck of the transport ship Galeka. One wonders if this is the soldier mentioned by Charles Bean in his description of the charge of the 11th Battalion up from the beach at the landing to Plugge’s Plateau. Half way up a Turk jumped up and tried to escape. He was bayoneted through his haversack and captured – “Prisoner here!" they shouted. "Shoot the bastard" was all the notice they received from others passing up the hill. Fortunately for the Turk, his captors proved humane and he was sent back down to the beach in charge of a wounded Australian.