“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives. You are now living 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 faraway 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 have become our sons as well.”
These words from Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Commander of the Turkish 19th Division during the Gallipoli Campaign and the first President of the Turkish Republic, move many a visitor to ANZAC Cove on Turkey’s Gallipoli Peninsula today. A place of pilgrimage for Australians and New Zealanders all year round, the now peaceful Gallipoli Peninsula is the site of the ANZAC Day Dawn Service on 25 April every year. The evening of 24 April sees thousands of Australians and New Zealanders spend the night in chilly conditions waiting vigil for the sun to start to rise and the commencement of the dawn service that commemorates the landing at ANZAC Cove and their fallen forefathers. For many young Aussies and Kiwis, attendance at an ANZAC Day Dawn Service is a rite of passage, and an important part of understanding the shaping of the character of their respective countries.
ANZAC stands for Australia and New Zealand Army Corps, however they were affectionately referred to as “the ANZACs”. April 25 is the date that the Australian and New Zealand corps landed at Gallipoli in 1915 as part of the expedition that was aiming to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula so that the famous Dardanelles Strait could be opened to the allies.
Upon landing at Gallipoli, the ANZACs met with fierce opposition from the Turkish Ottoman troops. The battle dragged out for 8 months, and by the end of 1915 over 11,000 ANZACs and more than 56,000 defending Turkish troops had been killed at Gallipoli along with approximately 27,000 British troops. The allies were evacuated at the end of 1915.
In spite of this, there are many stories of “restrained friendship” between the Turkish Ottoman soldiers and the ANZACs, with them sharing cigarettes and food. This camaraderie between the nations continues today, and many visiting Turkey for ANZAC Day are touched by the warm welcome received from their Turkish hosts.
So why is ANZAC Day so important? Australia and New Zealand were both in their infanthood as nations at the time of the battle, and were keen to prove their nationhood. During the battle, both sides suffered heavy casualties. While the military objectives of the campaign were not achieved, the campaign is considered to have been the “coming of age” of both Australia and New Zealand. The “legend of ANZAC”, the stories of the bravery of the ANZAC troops, became an important part of the identity of both nations, and helped to forge their identity on the World stage as countries in their own right, where previously they had been viewed as simply colonies of Britain.
ANZAC Day was established to remember the fallen soldiers from the battle of Gallipoli. However, after World War II, it soon became a day to remember all soldiers who were casualties of war. In both Australia and New Zealand, the day is a public holiday and starts with a dawn service where fallen soldiers are remembered. Then, later in the morning, many towns will have an ANZAC Day parade and a memorial ceremony. It is a sombre day and a time for reflecting on what the ANZACs fought for, and on the ANZAC values of courage, resilience and camaraderie.
Many Australians and New Zealanders dream of attending an ANZAC Day Dawn Service at ANZAC Cove on the Gallipoli Peninsula, where each year the Australian and New Zealand governments in cooperation with the Turkish government conduct commemorative services at Gallipoli: a joint Dawn Service at the Anzac Commemorative Site, followed by an Australian Memorial Service at Lone Pine, a New Zealand Memorial Service at Chunuk Bair and a Turkish Memorial Service.
2015 marks the 100 year anniversary of the landing of the ANZAC troops at ANZAC Cove. The Australian and New Zealand governments have held a ballot to determine eligibility for attendance at this event.
If you have won a ticket in the ballot to attend the ANZAC Day 2015 Dawn Service, take a look at our range of ANZAC Day 2015 tours.
You may also like to read our ANZAC Day general information, although please note that there are likely to be special additional arrangements in place for the 100 year anniversary in 2015.