ANZAC Day is New Zealand’s Memorial Day, commemorated each year on April 25th. Many kiwis see this day as a ‘celebration’ of the birth of New Zealand as a nation. The date serves to remind us of the heavy cost paid by soldiers of NZ, Australia, UK, France and Turkey in Gallipoli in 1915 during World War I. A reported 120,000 young men died during this campaign.
Many New Zealanders travel to Gallipoli at some stage of their lives to share the sorrow of what happened on a beautiful strip of Turkey’s coastline all those years ago. My husband and I visited the battle sites a week after ANZAC Day 2008 – we’d been advised to avoid the actual day because of the huge attendance at the actual services. It was a mild, sunny day. The poppies were in bloom along the roadsides and made a magnificent, if somewhat poignant sight. Tears were never far away as we wandered around Anzac Cove, Lone Pine and Chunuk Bair. Some of the memorials on the graves forced the tears to escape. Words like:
“He has changed his faded coat of brown for one of glorious white”
“He sleeps where ANZAC heroes came to do and die” aged 16
“Far from them who loved him, in a hero’s grave he lies”
“He died a man and closed his life’s brief day ere it had scarce begun” aged 17
What a beautiful place, its so hard to believe the death and carnage suffered here by so many. If a person managed to visit the sites today without emotions taking over, I challenge them to read the words of the Turkish hero and president Ataturk and remain unaffected. These words are often still quoted here today, and have helped build a significant bond between Turkey and New Zealand. Where once we were enemies, now we are joined forever in peace.