Helen Clark: 'Sorrow, great loss, and pride draw us all to Gallipoli'

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The Independent Online

Every year, at this time, many thousands of people are drawn to the Gallipoli Peninsula. They come, as we have today, to pay their respects to the brave men of many nations who served here in one of the most gruelling military campaigns the world has ever known.

Every year, at this time, many thousands of people are drawn to the Gallipoli Peninsula. They come, as we have today, to pay their respects to the brave men of many nations who served here in one of the most gruelling military campaigns the world has ever known.

To walk on the battlefields of Gallipoli is to walk on ground where so much blood was shed that it has become near sacred soil. What happened here became deeply etched in the collective memory of nations whose people fought here, and even played a part in shaping the peoples and the nations we have become.

This military conflict was remarkable for the respect the opposing sides developed for each other, even though the battles were bitter and hard fought. The soldiers recognised qualities of courage and honour in each other. Thirty three years later, a New Zealander who was accorded the Victoria Cross for great valour at Gallipoli, Lieutenant Colonel Bassett, returned to the battlefield and wrote: "I stood among men who once had been our mortal foes. We had hated them, but we had never despised them. We had admired their stubborn gallantry, their tenacity to endure. With such a race, loyal to themselves and to their country, we had become friends again. Between us lay the bond of mutual respect. Our dead had mingled, and in our mutual homage, I think we gained a lot that day."

That feeling was reciprocated on the Turkish side. The generosity of spirit shown by Ataturk and his successors is all the more remarkable because the vanquished had come to invade Turkish soil. In far away New Zealand, the Ataturk memorial bears his famous healing words to the families of those who died: "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 on this land, they have become our sons as well." Those are truly the words of a great man.

Sorrow and a sense of great loss draw us all to Gallipoli. We also come with pride in the courage our forebears showed in great adversity.

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