This country of ours…
For the people of modern Turkey the Battle of Çanakkale, as they call the Turkish struggle to retain control of the Gallipoli peninsula and the Straits of the Dardanelles, the Çanakkale Boğazi, in 1915, was one of the defining moments in their history. Two powerful European powers, Britain and France, tried to wrest that control from Turkey. They had even promised, if successful in their efforts to defeat Turkey, to give the capital, Constantinople, and the Straits of the Bosphorus to the Russian Empire. The failure of the British and French campaign, and the many stories of the resistance of the Turks, is remembered and honoured by dozens of memorials and historic sites on Gallipoli and along the Asiatic shore of the Dardanelles.
Australian visitors, not surprisingly, spend most of their time at Gallipoli
at the cemeteries and memorials of Anzac. However, a day or two given to visiting
some of the Turkish monuments and memorials in the area will provide an insight
into the Turkish perspective on an event which has played such a major role in
Australia’s understanding of itself. At these sites are powerful stories
of courage, determination and sacrifice. Such places are a reminder that these
qualities were not only to be found on the Allied side of the lines but were,
and remain, a common inheritance of all peoples who have been involved in the
tragedy of war. This bond between the ordinary soldiers and sailors who fought
at Gallipoli was well expressed by the President of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk:
There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us
Where they lie side by side
Here in this country of ours.
[‘Johnny’ – name signifying an ordinary British/Australian/New Zealand soldier: ‘Mehmet’ – similarly, a symbolic name for an ordinary Turkish soldier.]
The Turkish memorials and monuments featured in this gallery are only a small sample of those to be seen at Gallipoli and on the Asiatic shore. For a fuller description see Phil Taylor and Pam Cupper, Gallipoli, A Battlefield Guide or Major and Mrs Holt, Battlefield Guide, Gallipoli.
When World War I broke out in Europe in early August 1914, the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) initially remained neutral, unable to commit itself fully to either the Central Powers (Germany and Austro-Hungary) or the Allies (Britain, France and Russia). However, on 27 September 1914, Turkey closed the Straits of the Dardanelles (Çanakkale Boğazi) to British, French and Russian shipping and the situation gradually drifted towards war. On 29 October, German warships, ostensibly under Turkish control, bombarded Russian Black Sea ports. Turkey now found itself drawn inexorably into the German sphere of influence, and on 5 November 1914 Britain and France officially declared war on the Ottoman Empire.