- 60 years on, Turks welcome ANZACs with open arms -
The Vegemite Cafe, ANZAC House Hostel, Downunder Bars galore –
ANZAC descendents are big business in Gallipoli (Gelibolu).
With New Zealanders and Australians making the pilgrimage each year, it`s not just the tourist dollar that makes the locals so warmly disposed towards their erstwhile invaders, insists ANZAC tourist guide and retired submarine captain Ali Efe.
"New Zealanders and Australians say their sense of national identity was born in this place. For Turkish people too, this is where they first began to think of themselves as Turkish."
Capt Efe also has a strong personal connection with the place.
His grandfather died at Lone Pine, the site of one of the bloodiest battles of that long and pointless campaign, and now the Australian memorial.
He left a 19-year-old widow and baby son.
As was traditional, she was offered the choice of marrying her husband`s surviving brother, or staying unmarried and under the protection of the family.
She decided to put all her energies into her son. Her grandson remembers her in her 60s as a happy, generous woman, who laughed a lot.
But he would often catch her looking up into the sky when she thought she was alone.
"She would look so longingly; I asked her one day what she was looking at, and she said, `I am trying to see into heaven, because that`s where my man is`.
"In 40 years, she had never stopped looking for her man."
As a child, Capt Efe used to visit the battlefield with his uncle, searching for bits of shot and other mementos.
He shows the trenches and names the battalions in each: here Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch.
In some places, the enemies` trenches are scarcely a couple of metres apart, just the width of the road that snakes along the ridge.
Not much of the Turkish defence network remains, much to his chagrin.
The Government has slapped the asphalt road for the tour buses on top of the trenches he remembers clambering around as a boy.
With the closeness of the trenches, the faceless enemy began to take on human form for each side, he said.
As the months drew on and the bodies piled up, inches of ground were lost or gained, and – long before the generals would admit it – those on each side of the frontline worked out for themselves it was a pointless exercise.
And so casualties dropped off.
"They were shooting to miss, Capt Efe says.
Even trade of a sort evolved.
The Turkish soldiers had a tobacco ration but no cigarette papers.
The ANZACs were desperate for fresh food.
So instead of bullets, sacks of tomatoes and paper started flying across no man`s land.
Turkish soldiers also tasted chocolate for the first time, courtesy of the ANZACs and watched, mystified, as cricket matches were played.
"And always they end with the big punch up between the New Zealanders and the Australians!"
The ANZAC legend puts the blame for the Allied forces` failure squarely on the shoulders of the British commanders, who made stupid, costly mistakes and used colonial soldiers as cannon fodder.
Yes, crucial mistakes were made, Capt Efe says, but this theory of colonial oppressor perfidy does not give the Turkish soldiers much credit.
"They were not fighting for some abstract concept like `empire`, they were fighting for their homes, which in many cases were right behind them."
One of the most crucial mistakes made by the Allied forces was landing on the wrong beach.
When you see the exposed rocky cliff where the bulk of the ANZAC forces washed up, you don`t have to be a top-notch military strategist to work out it would be a suicide mission.
It didn`t even occur to the Turkish generals that anyone would be so foolhardy as to attempt it, so defences were limited to a few machine gun posts.
Even so, Capt Efe says "10 minutes" might have made the difference.
If the invaders had managed to get up the hill, they could have easily overwhelmed the few surprised Turkish defences, the peninsula would have been taken, the war might have finished two years earlier.
The peninsula, which extends a delicate toe into the Sea of Mamara, has always been the key to Turkey and Russia for successive invaders and traders.
Gelibolu was an important Byzantine fortress, the first Ottoman conquest in about 1356, and remained a key transit station for trade to and from Istabul 203km away.
The reason Turkish people are so forgiving and indulgent towards the (occasionally boorish) descendents of the invaders is that they respected their courage in battle and appreciated the fact it wasn`t primarily their war, Capt Efe says.
"The Turkish soldier, he understood what it was like to fight for an empire – for many centuries he had been forced to go to war on behalf of the Ottomans."
Lastly, modern Turkey owes its existence to the battle of Gelibolu, he says.
by Stuff News
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