Ambassador Tuncay Babalı's Speech At The Anzak Day (war Museum, 25 April 2013)
We are gathered on this early spring morning to remember our fallen soldiers and commemorate the Gallipoli campaign of the First World War. As ten thousand ANZACS, representatives of 27 countries and many more thousands of Turks gathered in Gallipoli this morning. The Gallipoli campaign had gone down the annals of history as the war of valour, courage, chivalry, idealism and devotion. What happened in Gallipoli has been deeply engraved in our collective memory. This gathering, like many that will take place all around the world today epitomizes the wisdom of understanding, reconciliation and strength of compassion between, at one point, opposing sides.
It was a turning point in our evolution as nations.
For us, it was the Gallipoli Campaign that sparked the critical process of bringing together our nation that eventually led to the birth of today’s modern Turkey. It was the moment of destiny.
The Campaign exacted a very heavy toll for the Turks. In the exhaustive, bitter and hard fought naval operations and land battles, casualties, martyrs and wounded recorded at over a quarter of a million on the Turkish side. In 1915 and onwards for several years, no university or high school in Istanbul generated any graduates. In other words, we lost our crème de la crème.
Epic battles produce celebrated stories of sacrifice and heroism.
I hereby would like to single out and remember the 57th Infantry Regiment. They were the frontline defenders against the ANZACs at the landing site at Arıburnu, later to be referred as Anzac Cove.
On April 25th, 1915, the commander of the regiment was Staff Lt.Col. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk who changed the fate of the Turkish people at the trenches when he addressed his soldiers with the words:
“Men, I am not ordering you to attack. I am ordering you to die. In the time that it takes us to die, other soldiers and commanders can come and take our place.”
All in the 57th Infantry Regiment perished within a few days…
Their martyrdom and all Çanakkale, what we call for Gallipoli, martyrs are sacred to us, and as a sign of respect and memory of the fallen, there is no 57th Regiment in the modern Turkish Army.
The campaign itself was also marked as “the last gentlemen’s war”. The 24th of May ceasefire allowed the sides to retrieve their wounded and bury the fallen. Scenes like throwing each other cigarettesand food were not rare or listening songs from feets away trenches.
It was the battles of Gallipoli which consolidated the notions of pride, freedom and nationhood in our history.They also facilitated the rise of our legendary leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
He was an outstanding commander, a brilliant military strategist and a visionary statesman.
Like all our Heads of Mission around the world, I am proud to read the compassionate words of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic and our first President, who had sent these sentences as a message to the Anzac mothers who came to the shores of Gallipoli in 1934 to commemorate their son’s sacrifice.
“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 bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land, they become our sons as well.”
It is this monumentally noble affection and understanding that uniquely bonds us today and leads friendly special relations between our nations and countries.
It is this spirit that endorses the principles enshrined in Atatürk’s famous dictum “Peace at Home, Peace in the World.”
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