A poem in Turkish on a Gallipoli hillside tells the traveller to ‘behold a place where an age went down… Listen to the silence where a nation’s heart beats.’
The port city of Çanakkale, Turkey, near the site of ancient Troy, conceals the remains of far more recent armies.
Little more than one kilometre wide at its narrowest point, separating Europe from the mainland of Asia, the international waterway today was a strait of death 100 years ago.
The First World War allied attack revealed valour on all sides. There are still many signs.
We asked Gökhan Tarkan Karaman, who makes documentary films, about the sort of relics he finds.
Karaman said: “Not many people have access to a lot of this area. This is a big chunk of land, and, as you know, half a million people came here to fight. This is a place where bullets did actually collide in mid air — so many shells were fired here. So, walking around carefully you find cartridges, shrapnel and mortars. Look down at your feet, especially after it has rained, and you find war material.”
‘A Ridge Too Far’ (with contributions from many countries, edited by Ashley Ekins) is how one book on the campaign refers to the Gallipoli peninsula that the allies never managed to take from the Turks.
The Çanakkale Museum displays a range of artefacts and leftover projectiles that were fired from naval guns, land artillery, rifles and machine guns.
Karaman: “There are still lots of things we don’t know about a campaign that lasted for eight and a half months. We are talking about 100 years ago, and yet we still see many things emerge, about which we’ve been misinformed for a long time, and that we’re now learning about correctly.”
A song written much later (‘And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda’, by Eric Bogle) puts it well: “In that hell that they called Suvla Bay we were butchered like lambs at the slaughter. Johnny Turk nearly blew us right back to Australia. We buried ours, and the Turks buried theirs, then we started all over again.”
Our correspondent Bora Bayraktar summed up: “On April 25th, 1915, the Allies landed at Çanakkale. One hundred years later, the signs of battle are still visible. The only consolation about that war in which hundreds of thousands were killed is that no hostility remains, only friendship.”