Would that they knew then
That this foreign bloodied land,
Like no place on this earth
These 30 yards between the trench
Of Turk and Allied Anzac men
Where lay, three deep, bodies dead
Or dying in a fierce May sun,
Be tended this warm September day
By Turkish gardeners, with their hoes
Picking out the weeds that grow
Between the regiments of stones
Carved with name, rank, and date
sometimes a verse. “Not in vain”
“He died for democracy”
Looking out to the Agean sea.
How could he have known then
10/44 Private H.White
23rd Australian Light
That in November 1915
At 20 years, he’d lay here
Or somewhere near. (His stone describes
“Believed to be buried here”)?
His details read by a passer by
A pilgrim curious to understand
Interpreting, ah yes, that was after
That Novembers rain then snow
That filled then froze the trench he lived
What choice: water or sniper bullet.
Ah Harry White, rest
In peace on this patch
of grass mown land
Over looking Anzac bay
Seagulls calling far away.
How could they all have known
That 9 month fight was won then lost
Or lost then won? Those 9 kilometers
Of land gained or lost, cost
The lives of 100 thousand men?
The rattle of two dying estates
Ottoman and allied empire,
Mistakes hatched in withdrawing rooms
To “land ships there” “Send in more men”
“Secure with bayonet high ground”
“Give me 50,000 men
And ships and that will be the end
Of the Turkish menace”, I quote
And oh that they had known
That at the hight of heat in May
A truce was made between both sides
To tend the decomposing dead.
Each ventured up, mixed in that space,
Enjoined in care and shock, exchanged
Bully beef, a Turkish cigarette.
When they returned, to start again.
It was not the same. Their letters
Speak of a new respect. They’d seen
themselves in the others eye.
Oh those men in drawing rooms
Had no idea.
And how would we have known
Were not for a Turkish guide to tell
Us child or grandchild of each race
How the Turkish soldier, Kemal
Disobeying orders, told his men
“I do not command you to fight
But die” and die they did,
for this their land.
And he became their Ataturk.
Would that they’d known then
That now this land no state owns
A commission for war graves attends.
A national park, where along
The ridges so fiercely fought or held
A Tarmac road cuts through the thorn
(The bush that cut their flesh to bleed)
Enabling air conditioned buses
To convey from battle ground to grave
(And mostly both) us tourists,
This September day.
Would that they’d known then
That ‘Pine Wood’, ‘Snipers Ridge’
Were sign posts in the landscape now
That Turkish men feed their family
On ‘I scream, you scream, ice cream’, selling
Miniatures of monuments.
And mothers bake the Anzac cakes
For children in another land.
Least we forget. Rosemary.
And make the same mistakes again.
My mother used to make Anzacs. She was neither a brilliant or creative cook but she had her favorites which she made well, including Anzac biscuits, obeying the recipe instructions, something I have not inherited. Baking and eating Anzacs was my first contact with the First World War Gallipoli battle, renown for its failure and futile cost of human life.
Mustafa Kemal (WIKI)
The Gallipoli campaign gave an important boost to the career of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, a little-known, low-ranking army officer whose success at Gallipoli made him a national hero. He was promoted to Pasha and, with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I, became the founder and the first president of the modern Turkish state with the title Atatürk, granted onto him by the parliament of Turkey and meaning Father of Turkey (an alternate translation could however be “Father of Turks”).
With other Turkish officers, Mustafa Kemal halted and eventually repelled the Allied advance, Mustafa Kemal exceeding his authority and contravening orders in so doing. His speech “I do not command you to fight, I command you to die. In the time it will take us to die we can be replenished by new forces” (Turkish: “Ben size taaruzu değil, ölmeyi emrediyorum. Biz ölünceye kadar geçecek zaman zarfında yerimize başka kuvvetler ve kumandanlar geçebilir”) has entered history. The 57th Regiment, led by Lieutenant Colonel Hüseyin Avni, fulfilled the order precisely. The entire regiment fell in battle.
This campaign also put a dent in the armour of Winston Churchill, then the First Lord of the Admiralty, who had commissioned the plans to invade the Dardanelles. He talks about this campaign vividly in his memoirs.
A common tradition amongst the people of Australia and New Zealand is to bake Anzac biscuits to remember the soldiers who died fighting for “King and country”. It has become a tradition as the biscuits were often sent to loved ones based in Gallipoli because the ingredients did not spoil easily and kept well during naval transportation.
September 2013, Gallipoli camp site