At Gallipoli, Australians and New Zealanders mark ANZAC day

At Gallipoli, Australians and New Zealanders mark ANZAC day

GELIBOLU - Agence France-Presse
At Gallipoli, Australians and New Zealanders mark ANZAC day

People mourn during the ceremony celebrating the 99th anniversary of the Anzac Day in Canakkale on April 25. AFP Photo

Almost a century since their forebears fell at Gallipoli, thousands of Australians and New Zealanders gathered April 25 at the site of the bloody World War I battle.

Some were searching for the gravestones of their relatives, others to remember the campaign of 1915-16 that saw thousands fall on the peninsula as they fought troops from the Ottoman Empire.

Jonathan Clarson, 20, was one of a large group of students from Australia who travelled to the other side of the world for the day of remembrance, known as ANZAC day after Australian and New Zealand Army Corps soldiers who lost their lives.

Dressed in shorts and walking boots, he walked through hundreds of gravestones that line the beach, trying to find the one that belonged to his grandfather.

"He fought here so I'm trying to find his name, it should be somewhere on the coast," he said.

"I can find him and then I want to pay my respects to the amazing soldiers that fought and died here."
It was on April 25, 1915 when more than 60,000 Australian and New Zealand troops joined a allied expedition landing at dawn on the peninsula in what is now Turkey.

The objective was for a quick strike to open the Dardanelles to the allies and so capture Istanbul from the Ottoman allies of Germany.

But they met fierce resistance and the warring sides soon hit a stalemate, with the bitter campaign dragging on for months. At the end of 1915, the ANZAC troops eventually pulled out, but not before an estimated 500,000 people from the allied and opposition sides had died, among them over 8,000 Australian soldiers.       

Many are buried in 32 cemeteries and the 28 communal graves that line the peninsula.

This year, close to 4,500 people made the journey for the commemorations, many of them spending the night on the beach so as not to miss the dawn ceremony marking the moment the first shot was fired.

"It's just very sad to see that's where their lives ended and most of them were the same age as all those young people you can see around here today," said Vic Dwyer, an "old-timer" in his 60s who had travelled from the western Australian city of Perth.

"It's very important they are so many here." 

The founding father of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who fought in the battle, paid tribute in 1934 to enemy soldiers who had lost their lives.

"There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side now here in this country of ours," he wrote. "You, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears... After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well."   

That message of reconciliation between the two countries still touches those who make the trip. "The Anzac experience and the Anzac history are still very important," said New Zealander Lisa Olorenshaw.
"It's a lot of passion, it's a lot of love, it's a lot of emotion."