Saturday, 25 April 2015

Gallipoli - one hundred years on

Today I am privileged to be taking part in an act of remembrance which commemorates the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli - a battle which took some 131,000 lives. It is not a celebration  (strange how people use that word in the context of conflict) but an act of remembrance, of paying our respects to those who have gone before; those who have left the familiar and the loved - in people and places - to take up arms to engage those against whom we might contend.

And the glorious dead? A term that refers to those who are 'in glory' (meaning dead) rather that conferring upon war the label 'glorious' - for war is rarely ever glorious and none but a fool would consider it to be so, or assume that this is what is meant by the term.

After the service: The Gallipoli memorial today

Today, at the National Memorial Arboretum, we will honour two young nations who 'came of age' and in the carnage and the catastrophe that was Gallipoli stood tall and side by side and became equals with the colonial powers that once ruled over them; and beside them the French (who have been at times our natural allies).

And of the 86,000 Turks who died, for although it was a hopeless task, battle was not unanswered by our troops, they who share a common ground with the 45,000 Allied troops (25,000 British, 10,000 Fench, 10,000 Australian and New Zealanders)? Perhaps the words of Ataturk, as found in the memorial at Anzac Cove, answer that more eloquently:

Those heroes that 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 the 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.
We will remember them

No comments: