No description of the events of Gallipoli can be complete without reference to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
He served at Gallipoli, and was responsible for leading the repulse of the attacks at various points at Anzac and at Suvla Bay in summer and autumn 1915. In later years, as a politician, he assumed the name Ataturk, that is, Father of the Turks, and in the wake of the collapse of the centuries old Ottoman Empire led Turkey into a new age of modernity.
Virtually every town of any size in Turkey has a statue or depiction of Ataturk somewhere in a public setting.
Mustafa Kemal was born in 1881 in Salonika and graduated to the Constantinople Military College in 1905. He saw action in Libya in 1910 – 12 in the Italo-Turkish war and received a wound to his left eye at the battle of Tobruk. The Balkan wars which followed almost immediately in 1912 -13 saw him based on the Gallipoli peninsula at Bulair, leading troops against the Bulgarian 4th Army. In 1913 he took part in the recovery of Idirne, a city which has been the capital of the Ottoman Empire in the middle ages, and parts of Eastern Thrace. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in March 1914.
Mustafa Kemal returned to Gallipoli in 1915, in command of the 19th Division. He was present to oppose the ANZAC landings on April 25th. It was prior to this attack that he is reputed to have told his troops, ‘I don’t order you to fight, I order you to die. In the time it takes us to die, other troops and commanders can come and take our places’. Later in the campaign he succesfully led the defence of Chunuk Bair against the allied August assaults. It was during this defence that he narrowly avoided injury or death when a piece of shrapnel was stopped from penetrating his chest by his pocket watch. Kemal’s ability to grasp strategy and his inspiring leadership led him to be given command of the overall Turkish forces fighting in the Anafarta sector from Chunuk Bair to Suvla Bay. He was granted the title of Pasha after the August battles.
The Turkish War of Independence began in 1919 and lasted until 1922, in a complex and deeply interwoven series of conflicts and political movements. The Republic of Turkey was established on 29th October 1923 and in March the following year the Caliphate was abolished. Kemal worked tirelessly for the modernisation of Turkey and the key decisions, not universally popular, were the abolishing of the traditional ‘fez’ headgear favoured by Turkish males, and the gradual transition to the written Turkish language from Arabic script.
In 1934, the same year that he accepted the title ‘Ataturk’, that is, Father of the Turks, Kemal wrote the famous words that now appear on a monolith at Anzac, Gallipoli.
There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here 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”
Ataturk died in 1938. His mausoleum in Ankara, the Anitkubir, it is a vast complex in which his life and achievements are retold and artifacts such as his cars are displayed. The tomb itself is permanently guarded by ceremonial soldiers. Mustafa Kemal is utterly central to the post-Ottoman history of Turkey and to its continued sense of identity and national purpose.
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