Thoughts And Remembrance (of Gallipoli)

(Written in Aleppo, Syria after having left Turkey.)

I stand here and watch
I stand here
Where you fell
I am alone
As you were
Amongst others of your ilk

Watching your sun fade in the East
As mine rises from the West
I am once again
Filled with admiration
Yet at once overawed
With the sheer stupidity

So a cloud passes Lone Pine
Drifting as would the stench
Assailing your nostrils thickly
As now the wind whips me
And presses my mind
To shudder over my heart

My heart, my heart
Burning in your stead
A pyre of tragedy
Engulfed in remembrance
For the inevitable
You faced to a man.


Gallipoli and the ANZACs

(ANZAC = Code name for "Australian and New Zealand Army Corps")

It was August the 4th, 1914 when England declared war on Germany. This act set the stage for the involvement of the ANZAC troops in World War One.

The following year, on February the 19th, British and French battleships under the command of Carden bombarded the outer forts of the Dardanelles. The Dardanelles being the narrow passage between the Aegean Sea and the Sea of Marmara. Also linking through to the Bosphorus and eventually the Black Sea, creating the only sea link between the Western Powers and Russia. It was of vital importance for the military efforts of the first world war. This, together with a number of political motives, led to what was to become the Gallipoli Campaign: the effort to try and secure a safe passage by sea to Russia. At the same time it was important to try and force Turkey out of the war thereby reducing Germany's allies. Other names for the Dardanelles include "The Straits" and "The Narrows" whilst they were known to the Turks as "Chanakkale Bogazi".

On March the 3rd 1915 allied landing parties, on the very point of the Gallipoli Peninsular, were destroying enemy gun batteries. But it was not until April the 25th that the landings started by the French, Australians and New Zealanders. This is why ANZAC Day is remembered on April 25th by Australians and New Zealanders.

The Turkish forces valiantly defended their homeland from invasion and proved a formidable force to be reckoned with. This, along with the hellishly difficult terrain kept the allied forces locked on the Gallipoli Peninsular with no real hope of advance towards Constantinople, modern day Istanbul. It is fair to say that the Allied Gallipoli Campaign was tragically plagued by bad judgement and misfortune, right from the first misplaced landings. However, it is arguable whether or not the allied forces would have achieved much more had the events at Gallipoli gone differently.

By May the 24th there were so many dead lying on the battlefield that the Turkish forces suggested and armistice in order to bury the dead. Accounts from aerial reconnaissance pilots of the time indicate that the stench from the dead was so powerful that even half a mile in the sky they were forced to hold their breath and cover their faces with wet cloth to try and avoid to smell.

Political and military debate raged back in England but finally, on December the 7th 1915 the British Government ordered the evacuation of all troops from Gallipoli. December the 19th saw the last of the ANZAC troops evacuated, but it was not until January the 9th of the following year that the last of the remaining allied troops finally left the Dardanelles.

In all about 480,000 allied troops took part in the Gallipoli Campaign. The following figures are as correct as can be expected due to the poor records of the time. There are many arguments over just who died at Gallipoli and I suppose we will never know, suffice it to say that it was far too many and that remembrance is now the key thing to focus upon. Anyway, these figures are supplied to illustrate the horror of this campaign :

  • Australia : 18,500 wounded and missing - 7,594 killed.
  • New Zealand : 5,150 wounded and missing - 2,431 killed.
  • British Empire : 198,000 wounded and missing - 22,000 killed.
  • France : 23,000 wounded and missing - 27,000 killed.
  • Ottoman Empire (Turkey) : 109,042 wounded and missing - 57,084 killed.
  • Other : 1,700 Indians died in Gallipoli, plus an unknown number of Germans, Newfoundlanders and Senegalese.

The official Turkish figures show that 86,692 of their troops were killed and 164,617 wounded or missing. Most agree that these numbers were significantly under-estimated. Other sources suggest that Turkish total losses were about 300,000.

Throughout World War One New Zealand furnished 124,211 men for the Allied forces. The losses of New Zealand in World War One exceeded 16,000 men killed and 40,000 wounded, including those involved at Gallipoli. When you consider that that population of New Zealand at the time (1914-1915) was approximately 1.1 million people then it is easy to see the devastation that it caused back home. Just over 5 percent of the population was either killed or wounded, this is even more damaging when you consider that it was the able bodied young men that went off to fight. The impact on the small, farming communities of New Zealand was dramatic. It is no wonder that ANZAC day is still so ingrained into the lives of New Zealanders today.

The above information is not intended to be a full account of the Gallipoli Campaign, nor is it intended to show a particular perspective of the same. Many arguments continue today trying to lay blame and apportion fault amongst the leaders, both political and military, of the day. But regardless of how it all came about, we must take care to preserve the past in order to ensure that it never happens again. I urge you to seek out more information about this and other similar events, discover for yourself the senselessness of war and the destruction it brings.

"Lest we forget."

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