Australia made campaign possible
How important was Australia to Gallipoli
By Kenan Celik, OAM, MA
As we approach the 90th anniversary of the Gallipoli Campaign, we remember that past conflict sometimes with sorrow, sometimes with anger, regret and with a sense of futility.
We also cannot help think of what role Australia played in that campaign. Was it necessary to Australia? Was it a matter of life and death as it was to the Ottoman Empire? These are questions that we consider today that offer no immediate answers.
When the British political and military leaders first considered the land campaign, the main drawback was the shortage of British troops available for service at Gallipoli. When reading the official British history on the campaign, one can quickly see that these leaders would probably never have considered anything more that a naval demonstration to satisfy Russian demands to relieve Ottoman pressure on its army fighting in the Caucasus.
So one reason that the Gallipoli Campaign was fought was the presence of Australian troops, then training in nearby Egypt, willing to fight in any campaign on behalf of the British Empire. The presence of these troops in Egypt made possible the ultimately costly land campaign. I strongly believe that if the British had not had the Australian troops close to Gallipoli, they would never have considered a campaign entailing large scale land operations. Most probably, the actions at the Dardanelles would have been confined to a naval demonstration to relieve the Russian armies in the east.
The other important question we have to look at whether the Gallipoli Campaign would be remembered the way it is if Australians had not been involved. Without a doubt its commemoration would not have become an international event at all. Indeed, in the past the campaign was only remembered in Turkey for the naval victory of March 18 and through some seminars organised in different parts of the country. The battlefields were never a place of pilgrimage. However, as more Australians turned out at Anzac Cove every year in remembrance, so more Turks came to tour the battlefields, eventually leading the Turkish government to build more memorials to satisfy Turkish visitors.
Today, Turkey and Australia enjoy good relations due to a campaign that involved both 90 years ago. In this way, we show the world we do not hold a grudge after all these years, just as the Turkish gazis (veterans) and the Australian diggers showed when they met at Gallipoli from time to time on remembrance days. Both societies are coming closer together and ties are strengthening.
For me, this is very important and good for both of us. Today we see tension growing between Muslim and Christian countries, but if Muslim Turkey and Christian Australia, one-time enemies, maintain their close relations they can contribute to a lessening of tensions between the two faiths. At a time when there is talk of crusades and jihad, hope is provided from a long ago campaign.