On this day, nearly 100 years ago, thousands of young Australians and New Zealanders ran on to the beaches of Gallipoli. Many of them died before the day was out, along with many more among the Turkish defenders and troops from Britain, Canada and many other places. By the time the campaign ended in failure, over 100 000 were dead and hundreds of thousands more severely wounded. A small toll by comparison with the main Western and Eastern fronts, but quite sufficiently horrific to be remembered a century later.
The Anzacs had no quarrel with the Turkish soldiers who were trying to kill them, nor did the people of Australia and New Zealand have any quarrel with those of Turkey. Their bravery and their lives were expended in the course of a bloody and pointless war between alliances of which the armies fighting at Gallipoli were tiny parts, over pretexts no one alive now, and very few at the time, could comprehend as the basis for a cataclysmic war.
By the time the Gallipoli attack was planned, the dreams of rapid and glorious victory that had led both sides to war had drowned in the mud of France and Flanders. It should have been obvious that this was a war no one could win. But, a peace that restored the status quo ante would mean an admission that it had all been for nothing.
Instead, the war planners kept coming up with futile strategic ideas like Gallipoli, secret weapons like poison gas, and new tactics previously considered unthinkable such as submarine attacks, without warning, on merchant shipping. By the time of the armistice in 1918, ten million or more had died, and the seeds of future wars had been sowed.
For all those who died, bravely following their country’s call to unknown battlefields, lest we forget.