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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 30, 2006

At Punchbowl and Gallipoli, reconciliation

By Richard Halloran

Australian soldiers marched on Monday at the Turkish Memorial in Gallipoli, northwestern Turkey, during an Anzac Day ceremony. The annual celebration honors the forces of Australia and New Zealand who fought a bloody nine-month battle against the Turks in 1915.

MURAD SEZER | Associated Press

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The Anzac memorial in the serene and sacred Punchbowl military cemetery last week commemorated in poetry the bravery and dedication of soldiers who died in battle at the same time more poetry appealed for reconciliation between one-time enemies.

The Anzacs, or the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, landed in April 1915 on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey alongside British soldiers as part of an Allied force of 480,000. It sought to capture the Dardennelles Strait from the Mediterranean into the Black Sea and to knock the Turks, allies of Germany, out of the Great War, later called World War I.

After almost nine months of merciless bloodletting in which the Anzacs fought valiantly, the Allied force was withdrawn in defeat, leaving behind 11,410 Anzac and 21,255 British dead. On the other side, 86,692 Turks perished. Many Anzacs and Turks alike are buried in cemeteries near where they fell.

In that action, Australians and New Zealanders, then subjects of the British Empire, fought for the first time in their own units rather than as individuals in British units. The campaign at Gallipoli marked the beginning, say citizens of both countries, of the emergence of distinctive Australian and New Zealand national identities.

Over the years, Anzac Day has become their most important national holiday, much like Independence Day in America, or National Day (Oct. 1) in China, or Independence Day (Aug. 15) in India.

U.S. Marines provided the colors, honor guard, firing battery and bugler for the low-key but touching memorial at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, where fallen American warriors from World War II and the Korea and Vietnam conflicts are buried.

Beyond the military honors and the laying of floral wreaths, the commemoration was marked by two stirring poems, one that remembered Australian and New Zealand soldiers who died young, the other a prayer that one-time enemies in Australia, New Zealand and Turkey be reconciled.

The first was a stanza taken from an ode, "For the Fallen," by an English poet, Laurence Binyon. He wrote it in 1914, shortly after the outbreak of World War I, to commemorate the English casualties that were so horrendous in the early days of that conflict.

The verse was adopted by the Australians and New Zealanders shortly after the war and has been recited ever since by everyone attending Anzac Day ceremonies all over the world:

They shall grow not old, As we that are left grow old.

Age shall not weary them, Nor the years condemn.


We will remember them.

The other was written by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who as a colonel fought against the Anzacs at Gallipoli and later founded the modern Turkish republic and became its first president.

John Quinn, the Australian consul general here, read to the assembly the plea for reconciliation that the Turkish leader, in 1934, addressed to Anzac mothers who had lost sons at Gallipoli:

Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives, You are now 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 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 at peace.

After having lost their lives on this land, They have become our sons as well.

Honolulu-based Richard Halloran is a former New York Times correspondent in Asia.