Atatürk’s House, Bigali

Running time
2 min 43 sec

Audio transcript

On Gallipoli, the back road into the old Anzac area lies north through the village of Büyükanafarta. On this road is the small Turkish village of Bigali, described by Gallipoli historian Les Carlyon as ‘seedy’, ‘lived-in’ and ‘worked hard’. The little café in the main square serves good Turkish coffee and the buzz of local gossip is presided over, as are many public spaces in Turkey, by a bust of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder and first President of the Republic of Turkey. But Bigali’s connection with Atatürk goes well beyond this expected acknowledgement of his national significance after World War I.

To the left of the main square is a long, straggling street, and number 126 is the most significant house in the district. Here, on 25 April 1915, Colonel Mustafa Kemal, commander of the Ottoman Army’s 19th Division, was living. Early that morning came the news that the ‘English’ (Australians) had landed across the peninsula at Ari Burnu. One of the regiments of Kemal’s division, the 57th, was at that moment on parade preparing to head out for manoeuvres near Chunuk Bair. Sensing the significance of the landing, that it was no mere diversionary attack, Kemal set out at once at the head of the regiment with a map in his hand. ‘Mustafa Kemal’, said Zeki Bey, one of Kemal’s officers, ‘didn’t know where Ari Burnu was; on the little maps we then had it was not marked by name’.

Mustafa Kemal was marching to his destiny. Aged 34, he had been sidelined by the rising political leaders of Turkey, the ‘Young Turks’, before 1915. The Gallipoli campaign would make Kemal probably the best-known commander on the spot. Years of war and revolution, however, lay ahead, from which he would emerge as Turkey’s greatest leader of the 20th century and be given the name 'Atatürk', 'Father of the Turks'. His house in Bigali, the ‘Atatürk Evi’, has been turned into a museum. So while Bigali might be a ‘seedy’ old village, it was from this dot on the map that Colonel Mustafa Kemal set out with his soldiers to do battle with the Anzacs on the morning of 25 April 1915.

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