Today marks 100 years since the Battle of Gallipoli. It was at the Battle of Gallipoli in World War I that two countries first walked out onto the world stage. It was at Gallipoli that the national pride of two countries was born in blood and fire, and it was at Gallipoli they died by the droves. They were Australian and New Zealand troops (ANZACs), independent forces placed under the command of Great Britain. For nearly nine months, they endured one of the bloodiest campaigns ever recorded.
The battle began with a dawn amphibious assault on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey on April 25, 1915, becoming acreage so hotly contested that many months and men later, it ended in a stalemate on January 9, 1916. The cost was 45,000 allied troops and nearly twice that for the Turkish defenders, who also commemorate the day. Diaries and letters give a tragically personal view of those impersonal numbers.
The roll call was the saddest, just fancy only 47 answered their names out of close on 550 men. When I heard what the result was I simply cried like a child.” 2nd Lieutenant FH Semple —
“The roll is called – how heartbreaking it is – name after name is called; the reply a deep silence which can be felt, despite the noise of the incessant cracking of rifles and screaming of shrapnel – there are few of us left to answer our names – just a thin line of weary faced men, behind a mass of silent forms, once our comrades – there they have been for days, we have not had time to bury them.” — Signaller Ellis Silas, 16th Battalion – 11 May 1915
In spite of living conditions that consisted of holes in the ground; rocky, mountainous terrain; weather that went from sweltering to snow; rain that flooded the trenches; vermin and disease, and water and food rationing,
. . . many Anzacs kept their spirits. They built a reputation as honest and brave fighters. Bonds were formed between them as they built reliance on each other.
The anniversary of the landing of the troops on April 25 is known as Anzac Day (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps). Both countries commemorate the sacrifice of nearly 12,000 lives in the course of the long and bloody battle. Though the Gallipoli campaign for the Allied forces failed, it was the beginning of the end for the Ottoman Empire.
A famous song, The Band Played Waltzing Mathilda, came out of the Gallipoli campaign. The devastating effects upon the lives of the Australian and New Zealand soldiers who lived through it are movingly captured in the voice, music and lyrics, a visible and audible reminder of their sacrifices. I hope you will listen to the words and watch the video all the way through. It is an unforgettable, as well as a damning, denouncement of the misery and suffering that follow in the bloody footsteps of war. The whispered vocals at the end still echo in my heart.