On this day…11th November…we remember the armistice that ended the Great War, that of 1914 – 1918 and in Europe we tend to think of the rows of stones in the cemeteries scattered over France and Belgium like the petals of the poppies that fall in the Albert Hall during the British Legion service of remembrance.
But it was not just a European war….nor one just involving the troops of the colonies and commonwealth.
It was a war fought on many fronts…including Gallipoli…. and I would like to bring to the fore one memorial there, on the clifftops.
A memorial in English, placed there by the Turks.
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.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
And Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
Here 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 in peace.
After having lost their lives on this land they have
Become our sons as well.
Kemal Ataturk was not just the military commander who held those heights…who repulsed all that valour could do on the part of the forces of Britain and the Commonwealth…he became the man who led Turkey out of feudalism, of subjection to religion…who brought that sleeping giant to life after the long years of the decay of the Ottoman empire.
For those moved by what is written on that memorial – please take a look at what is now happening in Turkey: the reintroduction of religious oppression, the attacks on freedom of speech, the violent crushing of dissent.
Those words could not be written by the current leaders of Turkey…who pay lip service to the man whose every tenet they wish to overthrow.