Dawn service held in Turkey to mark Gallipoli landings
ÇANAKKALE – Anadolu Agency
Over 1,000 visitors from Australia and New Zealand attended a dawn service in Turkey’s western province of Çanakkale on April 25 to commemorate the 103rd anniversary of the landing of foreign troops on Turkish soil during World War I.
Nearly 1,300 Australians and New Zealanders made the trip to the former battlefields overlooking the Dardanelles Strait for the annual sunrise commemoration of the start of the eight-month campaign.
Participants stayed out overnight at the commemoration site in sleeping bags and blankets in cold weather, waiting for the service to start as they watched documentaries and interviews on the World War I Çanakkale battle.
Patsy Reddy, governor-general of New Zealand, Britain’s Europe and the Americas Minister Alan Duncan, Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, U.K. envoy to Turkey Dominick Chilcott, French Col. Valery Sens, Çanakkale Deputy Governor Turan Yilmaz and a large number of domestic and foreign officials also attended the ceremony.
Speaking to state-run Anadolu Agency, Andrew Dalton from Australia said that this was his first visit to Çanakkale.
The 55-year-old psychologist said he was pleased to be at the dawn ceremony to commemorate his ancestors.
“It is a wonderful place here. I would like to thank Turkey for letting us experience this. As Australia, New Zealand and Turkey, we are all here together,” he said.
The ceremony started at 5:30 a.m. and lasted an hour.
Ceremonies across Australia
Hundreds of thousands of Australians also attended the dawn service across their country.
The dawn ceremonies for the Anzac (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) soldiers who lost their lives in the Çanakkale battles were held in the capital Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Hobart, as well as in other cities.
Over 10,000 Australians filled a square despite the cold weather in Melbourne.
Marches across Turkey
Separately, people across Turkey organized marches to commemorate the Çanakkale Martyrs’ Day.
Some 10,000 people in Çanakkale held a march to honor fallen Turkish soldiers. Youth and Sports Minister Osman Aşkın Bak distributed wheat soup to the participants, which was the last meal given to the soldiers of 57th Regiment of the Turkish army, who all fell during the battle.
Bak, Çanakkale Mayor Orhan Tavlı and many high-ranking soldiers started to march at 6 in the morning to commemorate the march of the soldiers on April 25, 1915.
The year 2018 marks the 103rd anniversary of the battle in the Çanakkale (Dardanelles) Strait in Çanakkale’s Gelibolu district, which served as a turnaround in favor of the Turks fighting in World War I against the Allied Forces.
They started their attack on March 18 — the day commemorated as Çanakkale Naval Victory Day — but the waters were filled with a network of mines laid by Ottoman vessels.
The events leading up to the momentous battle started in February 1915, when Britain and France decided to launch the Gallipoli campaign to knock the Ottoman Empire out of the war as quickly as possible by reaching and capturing its capital, Istanbul.
On April 25, 1915, nine months into World War I, Allied soldiers landed on the shores of the Gelibolu peninsula. The troops were there as part of a plan to open Çanakkale Strait on Turkey’s Aegean coast to Allied fleets, allowing them to threaten the then-Ottoman capital, Istanbul.
The Allied Forces, however, encountered strong and courageous resistance from the Turks and the campaign turned out to be a costly failure. Tens of thousands of Turkish nationals and soldiers died, along with tens of thousands of Europeans, plus around 7,000 - 8,000 Australians and nearly 3,000 New Zealanders.
Victory against the Allied forces boosted the morale of the Turkish side, which then went on to wage a war of independence between 1919 and 1922, and eventually formed a republic in 1923 from the ashes of the old empire.
April 25 is also known as ANZAC Day in Australia — a significant national holiday that honors the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought and died in Çanakkale on Turkey’s western coast in 1915. Australia and New Zealand commemorate the event as Gallipoli.