November 11th

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.

ataturk memorial

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.

Atatürk, 1934

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.


40 thoughts on “November 11th”

  1. This memorial resonates very strongly with Australians, and most Australians know of its existence. Many with family connections visit the place. Ataturk was a remarkable man, and it is indeed galling to see his memory overshadowed by the current government. I hope ordinary liberal secular Turks can withstand the pressure and the dangerous nonsense.

    1. My mother’s father was from Australia…he was injured in camp in Egypt and missed the campaign.
      My father was a great admirer of Ataturk…so for me two threads combine here.

      To read the European press you would have no idea of the nature and pervasiveness of the oppression of the Erdogan regime…

  2. I am so grateful for this moving post Helen. One which I would have loved to have written on my blog, but because I live in Turkey, I am always aware that everything written on the internet is being watched. I don’t want to be responsible for giving any cause for censorship to become worse than it already is. I despair at what’s happening to our country now, and I’ll repeat what I’ve been saying for a while that the great Ataturk must be turning in his grave. Thankyou xxx

    1. Doesn’t that say all that is needed…you live in a country which has just been celebrating the achievements of Ataturk – and live under a government which wishes to turn the country back a century.

  3. Excellent post, Helen. Through blogging I have understood a lot more of what has, and is, going on in the world. What is happening in Turkey is utterly appalling … and certainly in Spain, there was a piece on the television recently about Ataturk, celebrating what he did for Turkey. I am an eternal optimist but often just can’t believe my ears and my eyes…

    1. It’s one of the unexpected values of blogging…ordinary people talking to other ordinary people – and bypassing the media which seem to me to be more and more the chattels of governments and special interests.

  4. There are many soldiers who fought and died in different kinds of war throughout the last century. Not all of them would appreciate their memory being celebrated by way of a poppy. Politics aside, I stood for the 2 minute silence in memory of every fallen man, regardless of uniform or cause.

  5. “We buried ours, and the Turks buried theirs, and it started all over again.”
    Only recently did I read about the memorials in Turkey to the many nationalities who fought that brutal, mind numbing, stomach churning battle. How did those young men do it.
    So much happening in the middle east. I listened to an interview with a young Egyptian recently who said “we have been turned topsy turvey, but we have landed on our feet on the democratic road.”
    The swell, the pressure of the next generation, will carry these countries on their way.

    1. I wonder how the young men do it in Afghanistan too….

      I hope that swell, that pressure will do it…but these young people need help – not the arms the ‘West’ is busy pushing, but help to build an economy which gives employment and freedom from want.

      Not much hope of that seeing the mess the ‘West’ itself is in – collapsed economies, poverty and the rule of oligarchies.

  6. My grandmother’s cousin was a stretcher-bearer at Gallipoli and lived to tell the tale, but I doubt he ever knew of that moving memorial. Thank you for reminding us that WW1 stretched far beyond Europe. Like you I’m horrified at what is happening to the modern Turkey founded by Ataturk. Surely the people of Turkey don’t want his legacy despoiled?

    1. Reading Ayak’s account of her village I don’t think they’d notice anything except the expropriation of their property…and a lot of people are the same, nomatter what the level of education.
      And not only in Turkey….

  7. I have to say I admire the sentiment of the memorial – a lot more than the apparent jingoism we seem to face at this time of the year. I cringed when I heard the dambusters theme played at what was supposed to be a show/display/commemoration – in memory of innumerable lives lost.

    Maybe next year they’ll up the stakes and play the “Ride of the Valkyries” extract from “Apocalype Now”.

  8. Lovely post, well done for reminding us how many countries were involved. We had a small quiet service here in our village yesterday at the war memorial. Both poppies and cornflowers were worn. Have a good week Diane

  9. Ataturk, when in command, spotted three or four men coming from the front. He enquired as to their purpose and was told they had run out of ammunition. He pulled out his sword, told them to attach their bayonets, and led them back. “I am not ordering you to fight,” he said to troops later,”I am ordering you to die!” They did, and he led from the front.
    Some man, and the present leadership have cut off the army leaders who now appear unwilling to act. Europe needs Turkey, at a distance, so says little.

    1. As I understand the turkish constitution set up by Ataturk, the army had a special role as guardians of that constitution with power to control ‘unsuitable’ civil governments.
      Needless to say that went to the head of certain generals…notably in the 1980s…..but that was overcome.
      Then when the effort to join the EU was on, those meddling fools of Brussels insisted on the army losing that role….nothing could have pleased the politicians better.
      Since when Turkey has had treason trials of generals attempting to carry out their role under the Ataturk constitution and Erdogan taking Turkey back into a regime more restrictive than that of the martial law of the ’80s.
      Well done the sprouts yet again!

  10. I didn’t know about Gallipoli until I went to the war museum in Canberra. First war museum I had visited but it left a lasting impression on me, as did the tragic military cock-up of Gallipoli. Anzacs didn’t deserve that.

    I have zilch knowledge of current affairs in Turkey, but as you (and others) often say, blogging is often a much better source of information than so-called news media. Depressing however, to find yet more oppression that is being ignored. We live in sad times.

    1. Gallipoli..another of that lunatic Churchill’s bright ideas….

      It is depressing, I agree. My Turkish friends in France, some of whom thought to go home to retire, are horrified by what has been happening to their country.

      1. What gripes me, and nothing to do with Churchill, is that my history O level was very focused on the two WWs. I think it was 1870 until post WW2 European history. We touched on the Russian impact in WW2, why on earth didn’t they teach us about Gallipoli, given the Anzac commonwealth involvement? It was such a rigid narrow-minded syllabus 😦 and yet, we did learn about mustafa kemal. Obviously not allowed to learn anything that didn’t show Britain in a glorious light. A little objectivity goes a long way.

        I really must write a post about ex-pats going home, we had a great lesson in that from a Dutchman we knew in Sydney. Ex-pat perspectives are always fascinating. Well, to other ex-pats at least.

  11. If i remember rightly we ‘did’ the Tudors and Stuarts for O Level…and the 17th/18th centuries at A level….talk about in depth study…
    Still it meant that the Treaty of Utrecht was firmly fixed in our minds, anchored there by Sellar amd Yeatman’s account of the gruntling and disgruntling of the fortifications of Dunkirk.

    Turkish friends who had planned to go home to retire had always meant their kids to stay on in France – despite the hostility and the open discrimination they met with in the education system.
    Most of their spare dosh went back to build houses ready for retirement….and now they have grave doubts as to the wisdom of going to live in them.

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