Peace at Home; Peace in the World
As the first Anzacs waded ashore on April 25, 1915, they faced two unexpectedly formidable forces: the rugged sandy ridges of the Sari Bair range and a brilliant Turkish commander who would become one of the world’s most important political leaders of the 20th Century.
Mustafa Kemal’s vision for a modern Turkey, his extraordinary remodelling of his impoverished country after World War I and his adoption of the name ‘Ataturk’ (Father of the Turks) have little parallel. Admiration extended around the globe for his achievements in educating citizens of a nation struggling with a 90% illiteracy rate, in giving women voting rights and roles outside the home, in giving his people Turkish surnames and in continually advocating ‘Peace at Home; Peace in the World’.
In Australia over the last 50 years, the Ataturk legend has been embedded in the moving words he purportedly spoke in reference to the Turks and Allied soldiers who died at Gallipoli. The message to sorrowing mothers has been quoted by thousands and engraved in memorials in Australasia and Gallipoli but, although it contains elements of Ataturk’s recorded words, it is now conceded that his comments have been integrated and embellished.
The opening of Maryborough’s Gallipoli to Armistice Memorial Walk in Queen’s Park in 2018 was a moving ceremony attended by Queensland Honorary Consul for Turkey, Mr Turgut Manli. Mr Manli later presented the organising committee with a brass profile of Ataturk to be added to the walk. A similar plaque exists in the Roma Street Parklands in Brisbane.
The Maryborough memorial was unveiled in July, 2021.The venerated words attributed to Ataturk were added with this on-line addendum. The inscription was included not only to acknowledge the strong ties that developed between the Turks and the Anzacs but also the solace that is gained from the sentences: ‘Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives … You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side in this country of ours. You, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land, they have become our sons as well.’
At Gallipoli, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was the only Turkish commander who foresaw the enemy landing in the Gaba Tepe area. As word came through, he risked his career by not waiting for orders and hastening from the south to repel the Anzacs. He understood the critical importance of the Sari Bair range – whoever held its heights would hold the centre of the peninsula.
Mustafa Kemal held back the Anzac advance, launched a counterattack and continued to play a key role in the defence of Gallipoli, the last victory of the crumbling Ottoman empire. As a general he continued to record military success during the rest of the war. Afterwards he led his country and was pivotal in repelling moves by the Allied victors to partition Turkey.
The famous speech later attributed to him appears to have been synthesised from statements to Australian media outlets in relation to Anzac Day commemorations.
In 1930 he was reported as saying: ‘Whatever views we of the present or future generations of Turks may hold in regard to the rights or wrong of the world war, we shall never feel less respect for the men of Anzac and their deeds when battling against our armies … They were nearer to achieving the seemingly impossible than anyone on the other side realises.’