Ataturk’s noble Anzac PS
It’s hard to remember a war which ended with such mutual respect for once bitter enemies.
The inscription on this stone memorial overlooking Cook Strait in Wellington was written by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who served as a divisional commander at Gallipoli in World War I.
He went on to become the first president and architect of modern Turkey.
He was responding to a letter in 1934 from the mother of a dead Anzac asking permission to visit Gallipoli and her son’s grave.
He sat down and wrote this much-quoted reply:
‘‘Those heroes who 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 far away countries, wipe away your tears, your sons are now lying in our bosoms and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they become our sons as well.’’
Ataturk was the type of inspired leader that battlescarred Iraq and dangerous Afghanistan need so badly. (Perhaps all of us do.)
He united the Turkish nation, established high literacy levels and freed women and girls from outdated male Muslim tyranny.
There’s a clear symbol of that in world files – Ataturk photographed with his country’s first woman combat pilot, one of eight children he adopted.
The memorial, whose top edge picks up the crescent moon symbol, overlooks straits as the Gallipoli battleground did.
It’s an outcome of an agreement between the Turkish, Australian and New Zealand governments.
In 1984, Australia asked Turkey if the cove on the Gallipoli peninsula could be renamed Anzac Cove in memory of the Australian and New Zealand troops who died there in 1915.
The Turkish Government agreed to change the cove’s name from AriBurnu and also built a large monument to all those who died in the campaign.
My granddaughter was there last week in what has become a pilgrimage for thousands of New Zealand’s young over the years.
In return, the Australian and New Zealand governments agreed to build monuments to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in Canberra and Wellington.
The double highly significant memorial in Wellington designed by Ian Bowman has that marble crescent on its top edge, with a bust of Ataturk, inscriptions and soil from Anzac Cove.
When a paved forecourt and path were also planned, the Turkish Government gave a grant towards the cost. Now that letter to an Anzac mother is read every Anzac Day by the Turkish ambassador at the National War Memorial in Wellington.
One other totally peaceful accord after a brutal war reflects the gestures of the revered Japanese General Nogi, receiving in 1904 the surrender of the Russians in a war which had cost him his two sons.
He handed back the swords of the Russian commanders when they passed them to him – a gesture of extreme respect towards them and their family heirloom blades.
Then he posed in a group photo with the Russians, all markedly clutching their swords.
Later in life he pressured for and got the Japanese Government to erect monuments to the dead of both armies on various battle fields.
A white horse became the symbol of the end of the Russia-Japan war. The defeated Russian General Stoessel gave his horse (ironically named ‘‘Kotobuki’’ – ‘‘Happiness’’) to General Nogi. It was the only Russian horse not killed and eaten by his starving troops.
In turn, Nogi, hero of the victorious Japanese attack on Port Arthur, gave the white stallion to the Emperor Meiji. That horse was the founding mount of a luxurious stable of white, sacred horses which has also housed a white horse as a state gift from New Zealand. From the mailbag: About proud names: ‘‘Please tell Pat Booth that his aside about the name ‘Edgar’ in reference to Cobber Kain (April 24) was uncalled for. (The column reference was ‘who would ever have called him Edgar apart from his parents?’)
‘‘Why wouldn’t parents choose an honourable name of an English king?
‘‘My name is Edgar and I was named after my father’s first cousin and best friend who was killed fighting in the Canadian Army in April 1917 on the Western Front.
‘‘There must be lots of Edgars around, out of fashion but not entirely out of sight. Cheers.’’ – Edgar Mason, Three Kings
My apologies to the writer and all the Edgars! About the law: ‘‘Your column on ‘who judges the judges and coroners’ reminded me of a quote ‘It is not the legality of law I fear, it is the judge, or the unknown writer who said Good lawyers know the law; great lawyers know the judge.’
‘‘Again, your article identifies well the need for recognition of the victim in our ‘politically correct’ society.’’ – Grant Limpus About water: ‘‘Here are some further statistics relating to water usage which you may find interesting. Whereas it takes 2500 gallons of water to produce 1lb of beef, it takes only 250 gallons to produce 1lb of soya beans and 25 gallons to produce 1lb of wheat. It has been estimated that the amount of water used to produce one hamburger would be equivalent to a shower every day for two and a half weeks.’’ – Johanna Vroegop
The Wellington monument