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Speech

International Ceremony at the Canakkale Memorial

Issue date: 
Wednesday, 25 April 1990
Speaker: 
The Hon and the Rt Rev Sir Paul Reeves, GCMG, GCVO, QSO

Your Excellency Mr Turgut Ozal, President of the Republic of Turkey, Your Excellency Mr Safa Giray, Minister of National Defence, the Honourable Muzaffer Ecemis, Governor of Canakkale, distinguished guests from many nations.

On behalf of visiting Heads of Delegation, I am honoured to reply to the moving speeches of welcome we have heard this morning.

Seventy-five years ago Cannakklae was the site of the Command Headquarters of the Turkish 19th Division. Their leader was a young Lieutenant Colonel, Mustafa Kemal. If the Allied generals had studied his military record and, in particular, the brilliant defence of the Gallipoli Peninsula in the Balkan War a mere three years earlier, they might have had a more realistic appreciation of the difficulties that lay ahead.

The Allies had their own strategic reasons for trying to take the defences of the Dardanelles in the rear and so open the way to Constantinople and the Black Sea. The result though was a desperate campaign and at great cost to both sides Mustafa Kemal succeeded in confining the Allied forces to their beachheads.

For the Allied soldier put ashore on the beaches of this peninsula the grand strategic plan was largely irrelevant. For him there were two compelling questions: how formidable was the Turkish foe and how good a soldier were his own companions?

The answers to both questions were quick in coming. Here amongst thorn, scrub and sand, the heat and cold, the weariness and daily privation, the death and injury that was Gallipoli in 1915, certain things became apparent. The Turkish soldier was tough, obstinate and brave. The Allied troops showed the same qualities. The New Zealand soldier respected the dash and courage of his Australian counterpart. The ANZAC spirit and legend was born in this place. Soldiers learnt to depend on their mates for their comfort and very survival.

When we came here 75 years ago we were certainly not invited. Today we meet as the guests of the Turkish Government. We return encouraged by the words of Mustafa Kemal who, as Ataturk, went on to become the founder of modern Turkey. He said "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 "

Today we honour the dead but they are also a warning to us. As we reflect on the human cost of women left without husbands, mothers widowed, children never to know a father, men disabled, we know the benefits of war seldom match the costs.

You cannot glorify war. In 1914 a young man living on a remote farm in New Zealand rode his horse nonstop for 48 hours in order to join the army. For him it was an adventure. I don't think this would happen today. People have a much more sober view. The dogs of war create much havoc and leave too many victims.

When Ataturk became President, he adopted as the basis of his foreign policy the motto "Peace at home and peace in the world". It is our duty to make those words become a reality. Ultimately, this is what we owe to all those who died distant from their loved ones and all those who served under whatever flag in the fearful months of 1915.

On behalf of all the visiting Heads of Delegation, I thank the Turkish Government for the opportunity to be at this sacred place this morning. It is a time to be quiet and learn from the sacrifice of brave men. Let us pray to God that their death was not in vain.

Last updated: 
Friday, 9 January 2009

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