Scottish soldier’s family honors him in Gallipoli
Serkan Ocak – ÇANAKKALEAround 100 grandchildren of a Scottish soldier, who was injured in the Battle of Gallipoli in 1915, returned to the site of the battle ground to honor their grandfather, while also coming together with the descendants of a Turkish solider who had fought on the opposing side.
Alastair Fraser was born in 1877 and sent to Gallipoli in 1915, where he fought with the allies against the then Ottoman Empire in the Battle of Gallipoli during World War I. He was injured and sent back to Scotland, where he was told by a doctor he would not be able to have any children due to his injuries. However, Fraser’s faith proved the doctor wrong, as his wife gave birth to a child in 1916. Fraser and his wife had six children in total following the war. His wife put the bullet which injured him on top of a pen and she wrote a diary with it. Fraser’s grandchildren still treasure that pen as a precious memory from their grandparents.
A century later, the grandchildren of the Scottish soldier decided to visit the lands where their grandfather fought and some of their older relatives were also killed and laid to rest. The Fraser family has grown to 170 people, almost 230 with their wives, in four generations following the war.
A Turkish tour guide organized the visit of some 94 grandchildren of the Scottish soldier to the area where he sustained the injuries which might have prevented him having children.
Members of Fraser family got on a boat in Kabatepe and reached Suvla Bay, one of the main landing points during the battle, in the northwestern Turkish province of Çanakkale. They played traditional highland bagpipes while wearing their traditional clothes and went to Green Hill where six of their relatives were buried.
Alastair Fraser, who was born in 1952 and shared the same name as his grandfather, gave a speech, saying the hills were filled with the bodies of soldiers from both sides at the time of the bloody war.
Another grandchild, Domenica, also said both sides suffered in the war. “We have to learn how to live together and learn about our cultures for the future,” Domenica added.
Tour guide Ali Hakan Özel said he met Jean Findlay, who wrote a book about Fraser, her father’s uncle, three years ago in Gallipoli. He learned that her granduncle was a soldier who fought in the Battle of Gallipoli.
“I told her that my father’s uncle also fought here in the Çanakkale War [the battle’s Turkish name],” said Özel.
Findlay and Özel then decided to organize a visit to the area where the Özel family and Fraser family could meet as the grandchildren of Turkish and Scottish soldiers who had fought on opposing sides. Özel organized the event through a professional travel agency.
“I was moved at the exact moment when my 94 Scottish visitors met with my family at Suvla Bay, where our grandfathers and uncles fought a century ago. I am very proud of myself for organizing this event which will build friendship between us,” Özel said. Findlay added she was very happy to see the families of the two soldiers together in Gallipoli.
Leaders and dignitaries from Australia, New Zealand and Turkey led thousands at dawn ceremonies on Turkey’s Gallipoli peninsula on April 25 this year to mark the 100th anniversary of a World War I battle that helped shape their nations.
The Gallipoli campaign would eventually claim more than 130,000 lives, 87,000 of them on the side of the Ottoman Turks, who were allied with imperial Germany in World War I.
The Allied forces also included British, Irish, French, Indians, Gurkhas and Canadians. Approximately 58,000 Allied soldiers died, roughly half of them from Britain and Ireland, according to the Gallipoli Association. Only 11,000 have known graves on the Gallipoli peninsula. Others simply have their names inscribed on memorials.
The peninsula has become a site of pilgrimage for visitors from Australia and New Zealand in particular, who honor their fallen in graveyards halfway around the world on Anzac Day each year.
For Turkey, the battle also came to be a national touchstone, heralding the rise of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who as a young officer led the defense. He later founded modern Turkey, the secular republic that emerged from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire.