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Gallipoli defined sacrifice of nations

 
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BerichtGeplaatst: 19 Jan 2006 18:44    Onderwerp: Gallipoli defined sacrifice of nations Reageer met quote

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Gallipoli defined sacrifice of nations

Roy Parker

By the time this is published, I will be on a dream cruise along the coast of New Zealand, about as far from the battlefields of the Cape Fear as you can get.

But I’ll be thinking of battlefields when the ship gives us a day each in Dunedin and Christchurch, jewel-like places on the South Island.

I’ll follow a practice of visiting as many war memorials as I can while trying to keep up with the tour guide of the day.

These places are hallowed military ground for those of us whose hearts quiver at the stories of uncommon heroism in battle and ache at the lives harvested in battle.

The Otago Mounted Rifles came out of the fertile sheep lands and gold mine districts of the Otago region of New Zealand’s South Island.

The unit of young men were destined to live in legend for their history in the 1915 Gallipoli Expedition — the ill-fated British campaign that failed to seize the Dardanelle Straits during the Great War of 1914-18, now known as World War I.

The motion picture “Gallipoli” is based on the story of the fabled Anzac Corps, men from New Zealand and Australia who fought and died on the mournful rugged slopes of Gallipoli peninsula at places with names such as Chunuk Bair and Lone Pine.

The role of the Otago men is told in the official history of the campaign written by Sir Ian Hamilton, the overall commander of attacking forces:

“Here that splendid body of men, the Otago Mounted Rifles, lost some of their bravest and best, but in the end, when things were beginning to seem desperate, they forced through the stubborn obstacles accompanied by Capt. Shera and a party of New Zealand engineers, supported by the Maoris, who showed themselves worthy of the warriors of the Gate Pah.

“Neither the steep ascent nor the Turks were destined to stop (General) Russell or his New Zealanders. There are moments during battle when the impossible proves simple and this was one of those moments. These are exploits which must be seen to be realized.”

The New Zealanders, Otagos and sons of the native Maori, reached the summit of the objective. But history tells the finale:

“By this time the weight of Turkish pressure was beginning to make itself felt, as reinforcements arrived. In desperate fighting, the New Zealanders on the summit of Chunuk Bair held off the Turks for two days.

“But on 10 August a massive Turkish counter-attack settled the issue. The British battalions which had relieved the New Zealanders on Chunuk Bair the previous night were swept away.”

History tells us that, in a real sense, the nation of New Zealand received its spiritual birth in the defiles and ridges above the bay forever-after named Anzac Cove.

The deaths of more than 2,700 of New Zealand’s best and brightest there confirmed New Zealanders in a common heritage and a common bond of loss.

The 2,700 were among the more than 16,000 New Zealanders killed in battle in the Great War. New Zealand lost a greater percentage of its population than any other nation.

But it should be remembered that the New Zealand losses paled beside those of the defenders, the indomitable men of the Turkish divisions who sold themselves in suicidal mass charges to deny the Anzacs.

Just as New Zealand, Turkey was born in the 1915 fighting. Its troops were led by a commander who would become Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey.

Today, the Gallipoli battlegrounds are much as they were, except for scores of cemeteries where Anzac and Turk lie under the same soil. There are many memorials on the battlegrounds, and thousands of visitors tour them.

I have not been on the Gallipoli battlegrounds. But I have sailed through the Dardanelle Straits and read the huge inscription written by the Turkish poet Necmettin Halil Onan.
Haunting words

On the big hill just opposite Chanakkale, on a hill slope near the narrowest part of the Straits, this inscription is written in chalk to capture the attention of the passing ships:

“Stop, passer-by

This earth you tread unawares

Is where an age sank.

Bow and Listen.

This quiet mound

Is where the heart of a nation throbs.”

However, the most heart-stopping memorial of all is at Anzac Cove, which honors men of Australia and New Zealand who died there. Its author is Kemel Ataturk, who wrote it in 1933:

“Those heroes who shed their blood and lost there 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 far away countries

Wipe away your tears.

Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace.

After having lost their lives in this land

They have become our sons as well.”

Few memorials in any war evoke so vividly the gospel that war is in the final accounting a tragic and barren waste, given meaning only by the sacrificed flesh of those who did not seek nor start the chaos.
Roy Parker can receive messages at military@fayettevillenc.com or 486-3585.


http://www.fayettevillenc.com/article?id=224532
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