A Mehmetçik carrying wounded Lt. Casey out of harm’s way, who later became Lord Casey, the 16th Governor General of Australia in 1965. This symbolizes the compassion and chivalry that developed between the warring parties.
Upcoming expedition -- NY to Gallipoli Memorial Row
March 18, 2015
The modern republics of Turkey, Australia and New Zealand trace their national awakening from crumbling empires to one significant battle in World War One: the Gallipoli Campaign. So significant, that the failure by the allies to break the Ottoman defenses at the Dardanelles in that campaign precipitated the fall of Russian Empire on the eastern front and bled the resources of the already weak Ottoman Empire. The Gallipoli Campaign became the founding myth of Australia and New Zealand. Lt. Col Mustafa Kemal who shined in that battle would later become the founder of the new Republic of Turkey and assigned the name Atatürk by their National Assembly.
The battleships from the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (MEF) were stopped by mines and land-based artillery in the Dardanelles Narrows on 18 March 1915. That date is commemorated in Turkey as "Çanakkale Maritime Victory and Memorial Day." Following this disaster, the MEF initiated amphibious landings to secure the Gallipoli Peninsula. Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) troops landed on the western shores of the peninsula on 25 April while the British and French landed further south near its tip. The day of their landing is now commemorated in Australia and New Zealand as the ANZAC Day for "the contribution and suffering of all those who have served." The fight would continue for eight months until MEF evacuated in December 1915.
Casualties were high – the Ottoman side suffered about 300,000 dead and wounded or a rate of 60% while the British/French losses were approximately 252,000, or 52%. During the campaign, 8,708 Australians and 2,721 New Zealanders were killed.
Gallipoli is remembered as "the last gentlemen’s war" where the sides refrained from the use of chemical weapons and the troops benefited from the proximity of the trenches, tossing food and cigarettes to the enemy side with notes attached. Coupled with the respective gallantry that each side acknowledged in each other, this battleship camaraderie created a lasting bond of mutual respect, admiration and friendship.
A wounded Lt. Richard Casey was rescued by an Ottoman soldier who waved a white flag to pick him up in no-man’s land, to carry him to Australian trenches then to return to his own after an about-face. That same lieutenant led an illustrious political carrier, held ministry positions then became Lord Casey and the 16th Governor General of Australia (1965-69) to say:
"Having battled the Turks and lost thousands of our people, we parted from Gallipoli Peninsula with great appreciation and admiration for the heroic Turkish nation and its peerless patriotism."In 1985, the Turkish Government officially renamed the beaches where the ANZAC landed as "Anzak Koyu" for ANZAC Cove. Every year since then, a dawn service is held during the memorial ceremonies for the fallen. Atatürk, founder of modern Turkey, who as Lt. Col. Mustafa Kemal had stopped the ANZAC advance in 1915, issued the following words of wisdom in memory of the ANZAC in 1934:
"Heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives! You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours. You, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well."These powerful words are inscribed on a monument in ANZAC Cove in Turkey and on the Kemal Atatürk Memorial in the Australian capital Canberra to honor the heroism and the self-sacrifice of all soldiers in those fierce battles.
Inspired by the above words for peace and reconciliation, and in memory of all those who lost their lives during the Gallipoli Campaign, Erden Eruç and his team will row eastbound across the Atlantic Ocean from New York then east on the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas to ANZAC Cove. Rowers were intentionally recruited from countries that fought on the Gallipoli Peninsula a century ago. They will take turns to join Eruç at select locations along the route while Eruç will remain the skipper throughout on the two-person rowboat. The rowboat will reach the ANZAC Cove at the Gallipoli Peninsula before 25 April 2016 to attend the 101st Anniversary Dawn Service on ANZAC Day.
This Memorial Challenge is conceived on the mutual respect and friendship that exists today between the people of Turkey, Australia and New Zealand. Please stay tuned for a dedicated website to follow the rowers.