Sun, Apr 26, 2015 - Page 1 News List

Thousands gather to mark Gallipoli centenary

LEST WE FORGET:This year’s ceremonies were said to be the largest-ever, with about 10,000 people attending an event in Gallipoli, and others in Australia and New Zealand

Reuters, GALLIPOLI PENINSULA, Turkey, and SYDNEY

New Zealand Army officers attend a dawn service marking the 100th anniversary of ANZAC Day in Gallipoli, Turkey, yesterday.

Photo: AFP

Leaders and dignitaries from New Zealand, Australia and Turkey led thousands at dawn ceremonies on Turkey’s Gallipoli Peninsula yesterday to mark the 100th anniversary of a World War I battle that helped shape their nations.

The Gallipoli campaign has resonated through generations, which have mourned the thousands of soldiers from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) cut down by machinegun and artillery fire as they struggled ashore on a narrow beach.

The fighting would eventually claim more than 130,000 lives, 87,000 of them on the side of the Ottoman Turks, who were allied with imperial Germany in World War I.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and Britain’s Prince Charles laid wreaths as bagpipes played at ANZAC Cove, just north of where the landings occurred, in front of more than 10,000 people.

Abbott told the crowd, many of whom spent a cold night in their sleeping bags to secure a place at the crowded grounds, about the lives lost during the campaign, which helped forge Australia’s identity.

“Like every generation since, we are here on Gallipoli, because we believe that the ANZACs represented Australians at our best,” he said.

Gallipoli was the first time that soldiers from Australia and New Zealand fought under their own flags and is seared in the national consciousnesses as a point where their nations came of age, emerging from the shadow of the British empire.

The peninsula has become a site of pilgrimage for visitors from Australia and New Zealand in particular, who honor their fallen in graveyards halfway around the world on ANZAC Day each year. This year is set to be the largest-ever commemoration.

“To us, Gallipoli is also a byword for the best characteristics of Australians and New Zealanders, especially when they work side by side in the face of adversity,” Key said in his speech at the ceremony.

For Turkey, it is also a national touchstone, heralding the rise of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who as a young officer led the defense. He later founded modern Turkey, the secular republic that emerged from the ruins of the Ottoman empire.

Some of those who had traveled thousands of kilometers, but had not registered for the ceremonies, slept overnight in a hall and watched the events on television.

“My great uncle fought at Gallipoli and survived. We need to remember what these people have been through for us and what a waste of young lives it is,” Pam McMillan from New Zealand said.

In Sydney, tens of thousands turned out on Martin Place and military bagpipers played just blocks from where a Muslim gunman and two of his hostages were killed last year when police stormed a cafe to end a deadly hostage siege.

In New Zealand, the Auckland Museum said about 30,000 people turned out for the city’s dawn services.

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