On the 25th of April 1915, the boys of Australia and New Zealand landed on a beach in Gallipoli to fight for control of the Dardanelles. Almost 2000 were lost on the first day and by the time our troops withdrew 8709 soldiers died. A significant moment in Australian history and no one will dispute that, but it seems that ‘Lest We Forget’ is becoming ‘Lest We Remember’.
Now, it’s not that we are forgetting the sacrifices made and the agony and heartbreak of the families. Those times were truly harrowing and we, as a nation, commemorate the honoured who fell. But, we just aren’t remembering why we went to Turkey in the first place. Again, I’m not trying to stir up some patriotic speech about how we went for freedom and to protect Australian values, I mean literally, why did we go.
Long story short it was an invasion. Under the order of Winston Churchill, who was First Lord of the Admiralty at the time, we were sent to invade Turkey and capture the use of the Dardanelles Straights for the Triple Alliance. It was an invasion that was poorly executed with the landing sight miscalculated, from a British commander who sent expendable troops from a nation barely born.
What gets to me about Australian attitudes towards ANZAC Day is that we only remember the victims, the fallen, the blood and the honour. It took until I was about 16 to actually realise that during the minutes silence, my internal monologue was cursing the Turkish, who were bigger victims than us. For the year in which we remained on those beaches, the Turkish were fighting off an invasion on their home land, unprovoked. They had no reason to fight the Australians other than we were allied with the British, they didn’t want anything off us, they didn’t want land or riches, they didn’t strike us until they were forced to defend their country.
As a nation, we choose not to remember our invasion on a country that wasn’t trying to fight us, and since then, we have raised generation after generation of people who only see ‘Johnny Turk’ as a soldier, and not a victim. It becomes more and more apparent that history is written by the victors, if we’d lost the war we’d be described as barbaric invaders, rather than some boys who were tragically killed.
No one really won the Battle of Gallipoli, there was only loss, disaster, and blood. Both countries were victims of higher command in a war of ego between the European nations. This ANZAC Day I choose not to just remember our fallen, but to feel guilt. Guilt for the Turkish defending an invasion, but also guilt for not realising sooner, we were not the only losers, and we have less of a right to act as a victim of the battle than the Turkish.
Lest We Forget.