Memorial of Canakkale Martyrs, Gallipoli
Anzac Cove, Gallipoli
Situated at around 315 km from Istanbul and 15 km from Canakkale, Gallipoli is a beautiful peninsula blessed with Aegean blue crystal waters kissing sandy beaches, olive trees, flower-covered hills and timeless small fishing or farming villages. For some, one important fact once overshadowed all this serene beauty: the strategic importance of Dardanelles. That is why this place witnessed one of the bloodiest battles of WW1.
In 1915, an allied campaign aiming to pass the Dardanelles has started. The mission was straightforward: reaching Istanbul and gaining the control of the Dardanelles and Bosphorus straits so that Russians would get the much needed support to put a bigger pressure on the Central Powers that included Germany,Austrian-Hungarian Empire and Ottoman Empire.
When British Royal Navy and French Marine Nationale failed the mission loosing five ships against Turks while trying to pass through the strait, a decision has been taken which would have a huge impact on many young soldiers from both sides: the battle was to be continued on the ground and various ground troops including the British, French,and a special force which was recently formed:Australian and New Zealand Army Corps also known as ANZACS,eventually hit the shores. 44,000 of these allied soldiers never made it home and around 100,000 of them were wounded. The Anzacs had to leave 11.500 of their comrades in Turkish soil. The Turkish losses were horrendous: 87,000 dead and 165,000 wounded.
The Anzacs came ashore on the morning of April 25, 1915 and fought in the region until January 9, 1916. The cove that they first stepped on the Gallipoli soil is called the Anzac cove (Anzac Koyu) and each year on the same day (Anzac day) a commemoration service is held starting from this point at dawn where Ari Burnu Monument and Cemetery lie. The other important battle fields, monuments and cemeteries are Burnt Hill (Yusufcuktepe), Chunuk Bair (Conkbayiri), Lonepine (Kanli Sirt), The Nek, The Turkish Memorial, Museum and Cemetery (Sehitler Abidesi, Turk Sehitligi ve Muzesi). The area which is a national park now contains total of 31 war cemeteries.
The after math of the campaign is interesting. After a bloodbath which took around a total of 131,000 lives and left 261,000 wounded from both sides, Allies could not pass the Dardanelles. Russia never got the support on time and as a result of this failure, a communist revolution swept away the Great Russian Empire. Although some objections appear from time to time, it is believed that this campaign led to a beginning of national consciousness and identity in Australia and New Zealand. Every Anzac day, more and more Australians and New Zealanders take their place in Dawn Commemoration in Anzac cove, remembering their losses and keeping their flags up and high for their fallen boys who took tremendous amount of pain with honor and pride.
For the Turks, the losses were unbearable, except for the fact that a promising, charismatic young officer called Mustafa Kemal Ataturk who would establish the Turkish Republic 8 years after this campaign, showed his talents here as a commander and built up a reputation among the Turks as a leader to be followed till the end.
Despite the beauty surrounding the region, Gallipoli is a sad place. It has a special meaning in the daily life of Turks reflecting a mix of pride, honor, pain and suffering. It echoes in some old Turkish folk songs or it is embedded into idioms like "No passage through Canakkale" indicating a well built defensive position against a much more powerful offensive move.
Gallipoli can be reached either from Istanbul or Canakkale and daily tours are always available from these cities.