Looking at life... from an oblique angle / and I sometimes Twitter (normally only when riled up): @brindafella

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* Dawn Service

I attended the ANZAC Day Dawn Service at the Australian War Memorial (link) in Canberra again this year. (It's my picture at AWM.)

For Australians and New Zealanders, and also Brits, Canuks (Newfoundlanders) and Indians, and French, and probably a few others, too, 25 April is a BIG day.

In the pre-dawn hours of 25 April 1915, the forces of those countries began an invasion of Turley. It was a British plan, cunningly conceived, to create a way to get materiel (the things for making war) through to the Russian ports on the Black Sea. They needed to control the Dardenelles (aka Hellespont) - the narrow strait separating the two parts of Turkey that leads from the Aegean Sea portion of the larger Mediterranean Sea into the Sea of Marmara, thence through the even narrower Bosporus strait into the Black Sea.

In those pre-dawn hours, troops were landed on several beaches on the tip of the Gallipoli Peninsular: There were around 16,000 landed that day at what was named by them ANZAC Cove.

Eight futile months of fighting ensued. The Turkish soldiers under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Pasha, aka Kemal Atatürk, using the advantage of height to the disadvantage of the invaders who needed to fight their way up precipitous slopes, kept the invaders mainly on the beaches.

A glorious retreat was arranged. In the dead of night, the thousands of troops were got out by boat, leaving cunningly arranged timing devices to let off the occasional shot to convince the Turks that the invaders were still there. Imagine a tin with a very small hole that slowly allows water to drip into another tin hung from a string, the weight of water finally causing the string to pull the trigger of the rifle.

* The ANZAC legend

The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) was formed by the British Commonwealth collectively managing two southern-hemisphere forces. (Yes, the South Africans were used elsewhere.) What happened was that the mainly citizen-soldiers (militia) of the two countries suddenly found a kinship. A legend was born, that crosses the kidding-dislike between the two countries that is now usually played out on sporting fields.

There is another element to the ANZAC legend, that is increasingly discernable. Although Atatürk, who became the first President of Turkey, famously said in 1934 "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." (see quote just below picture). Said under 20 years after the invasion, and now seventy years on, this was a great bridge forged beteen Turkey and the nations that invaded it. Turkey is a great friend of Australia and New Zealand these days, and Turkey's creation years ago of the "peace park" comprising the battlefields, has meant that the "new invasion" annually by thousands of pilgrims for the ANZAC Day (25 April) commemorations, is borne by the Turks with great good will.

* What does this all mean?

I suggest that the debacle of strategy in 1915 has recent parallels.

Invading another country is always going to be frought with danger, not least for the ones fighting. It is, ultimately, a political decision. In 1915, it was Winston Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty (aka British minister for the Navy) who promoted the invasion of Turkey. It was a disaster that kept a very promising politician in various less glamorous political posts than he might have held, until World War II.

And now? How will history look on more recent invasions?

Time will tell.


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