Commemorations are underway at Gallipoli in Turkey to mark the centenary of one of the bloodiest battles of World War I.
A student choir from Brisbane has joined other dignitaries from Australia, New Zealand, Britain and Turkey.
In 1915 British and French troops joined divisions of the Australian and New Zealand armies in a failed attempt to defeat Turkish forces of the then Ottoman Empire. The campaign claimed 130,000 lives.
At Gallipoli today, veterans’ descendants find reconciliation that was impossible for some of those who fought.
“I accompanied my grandfather in 1990 and we couldn’t convince him to hold an Australian veteran’s hand 25 years ago. I witnessed it myself. But today, I can visit Turkish and Australian graveyards together with a grandson of an Australian veteran as we walk arm in arm,” said Halil Koc, the grandson of Turkish war veteran Gazi Halil Koc.
His Australian counterpart, Bruce Scates, is the grandson of Private Thomas Charles Scates, who also fought at Gallipoli. He said the meeting was a great honour.
“We share a common story because it didn’t matter what uniform you wore.
The fear of war, the pain of war, the ordeal of war is shared by all sides and surely in coming here we should understand that the suffering of war goes beyond nations. And I think a great story from the Gallipoli campaign – Canakkale campaign – is that story of reconciliation between former foes,” Bruce Scates said.
In 1915 the Allied Powers wanted to secure the sea route from Europe to Russia, which was then on the allies’ side. The objective was only achieved at the end of the war.
After a failed naval attack a land invasion of the Gallipoli peninsula was launched; it too foundered amid fierce Turkish resistance – at huge human cost on both sides.