Gallipoli centenary: Australia and New Zealand mark Anzac Day

EUROPE, APR 25: Australia and New Zealand are remembering soldiers from the two countries who fought at Gallipoli in Turkey during World War One.

An indigenous Australian didgeridoo player began the ceremony before dawn.

The events throughout Saturday will mark the centenary of the landing of Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzacs) at Gallipoli on Anzac Day.

It is estimated more than 11,400 from Australia and New Zealand were killed in the fighting which followed.

Anzac Day is arguably Australia’s most important national occasion.

Thousands of people from Australia and New Zealand are in Turkey for dawn ceremonies along with Princes Charles and Harry and a large number of international dignitaries.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told a pre-dawn service at Gallipoli that Australian troops who fought there were the “founding heroes” of their country.

Mr Abbott said that Australian troops “were as good as they could be in their time – now let us be as good as we can be in our time”.

Paying tribute to his country’s armed forces, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said that his country has rarely been seen as aggressors – but that is exactly how they were seen by Ottoman Turks in 1915.

He said that Gallipoli had become a by-word for the best characteristics of Australians and New Zealanders “especially when they work side by side in the face of adversity”.

Thousands of miles away in Australia and New Zealand, dawn services and other events were held on Saturday morning to mark the centenary of the landings amid tight security.

“They loved and were loved in return, were prepared to fight for their beliefs, were, like us, prey to fears and human despair,” said Australian Chief of Army David Morrison in an address at the Canberra Australian war memorial.

“It makes their sacrifice and their capacity to endure real despite the passage of time.”

More than 20,000 people in New Zealand attended a service at the national war memorial in Wellington, where Governor-General Jerry Mateparae was accompanied by Australian counterpart Peter Cosgrove.

Anzac Day affirmed “the qualities we prize: courage, compassion and comradeship, qualities which were displayed by our troops on the Gallipoli Peninsula and by our armed forces in subsequent conflicts,” Mr Mateparae said.

He described Gallipoli as “the beginning of an eight-month ordeal, an experience which was to be a turning point in the history of this nation”.

‘Heroism and humanity’

Later on Saturday in London, the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh – who is patron of the Gallipoli Association – and Prince William will be joined by senior government and military figures to lay wreaths at the Cenotaph in Whitehall.

In Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael will join veterans and members of the public in marking the anniversary at Edinburgh Castle.

About 131,000 – made up of 45,000 Allied forces and 86,000 from Turkey – died in the campaign. The fatalities included about 25,000 British military personnel, 10,000 from France.

Gallipoli holds a special place in Australian hearts. Many believe it was here Australians proved themselves the equal of any in the world, heralding the young nation’s emergence onto the world stage.

What was Gallipoli?

  • After a failed naval attack, the Allies tried to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul) via the Gallipoli peninsula by land assault
  • The amphibious assault started at dawn on 25 April, 1915
  • British, French and their dominions’ troops – including soldiers from Australia, New Zealand, India and Newfoundland – took part
  • They faced months of shelling, sniper fire and sickness, before abandoning the campaign
  • 45,000 Allied troops died for no material gain, although the Turkish Army was tied down for eight months
  • 86,000 Turkish troops died. Commander Mustafa Kemal survived and went on to found modern Turkey