Today, 18 March 2015 is an important day for Turkey – known as Canakkale Victory and Martyr’s Day. Today is the 100 year anniversary of this important date, on which in 1915, Turkey defeated Allied Battleships as they moved up the Dardanelles, shelling Turkish forts in Canakkale, in an attempt to take control of the Dardanelles.
Just as the Battle of Gallipoli was a critical point in the nation building process for Australia and New Zealand, who remember it every year on ANZAC Day – 25 April, it was also a critical point in the nation building process of modern Turkey. So today Turkey remembers this day as a day of great bravery shown by Turkish soldiers who fought for their country’s freedom. Interestingly, Australia and New Zealand were not involved in the 18 March attack on Canakkale, their involvement came later, when they landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 2015.
There are two memorials in Canakkale that remind us of the significance of this date and the Gallipoli Campaign. As you catch the ferry across the Dardanelles, from Canakkale to Eceabat, on the Gallipoli peninsula you can see the first of these – a large red memorial with the simple words: 18 Mart 1915.
The second memorial is also visible from the ferry – set in the hillside above the Kilitbahir fort which guards the Dardanelles is the “Dur Yolcu” memorial. The memorial is a giant figure of a Turkish solder carrying a rifle, with his other hand pointing out to the inscription:
Bilmeden gelip bastığın
bir devrin battığı yerdir
These are the first few lines of a famous poem by the Turkish poet, Necmettin Halil Onan which translate to:
The soil you tread
Once witnessed the end of an era.
Just hearing the first few words of the poem is enough for Turkish people to remember the sentiment of the entire poem which goes on to honour the ordinary soldiers that laid down their lives for the freedom of their country.
So today, we stop, and we remember, with deep respect, the courage shown by the more than 86,000 Turkish soldiers who lost their lives fighting for their country in the Galllipoli Campaign, and the importance of 18 March 1915 for Turkey as a nation.