Turkish Memorial

Audio file
Running time
5 min 13 sec

Directions

Leave Quinn's Post Cemetery and go back to the road. Turn left and proceed up the hill until you reach the large statue of a Turkish soldier on your left.

Audio transcript

This larger than life sized representation of the ordinary Turkish soldier, rifle in hands, faces determinedly downhill. This was how the Turkish soldiers on the day of the invasion of their country - 25 April 1915 - faced the Anzacs coming up these slopes from the beach towards the heights of Chunuk Bair. On the slopes behind the monument leading up to what was called Battleship Hill was fought one of the most crucial actions of the Battle of the Landing and it was here that the capability and courage shown by the Turks sealed the fate of the Anzacs.

Before the invasion the fighting capacities of the Turkish army had not been highly regarded. The power and effectiveness of the old 'Ottoman Empire' had been declining for nearly a century and in any invasion of Turkey it was thought that British cold steel and determination would soon sweep aside the defenders in a triumphant assault. When the Australians first landed they encountered small bodies of Turks who, after doing what they could, withdrew back over the ridges. The main Turkish forces in the area had been held in reserve to see just where the British Empire troops were going to land on the peninsula. By 6.30 am a report had reached the commander of the Turkish 19th Division, Colonel Mustafa Kemal, that an enemy force had scaled the heights at Ari Burnu. Kemal's troops were at Bigali, a small village off to the east beyond the main range, and he ordered his whole division to prepare to march to the coast. He himself set off riding at the head of the 57th Regiment.

Cast your eyes up along the main road to the very top of the range, the heights of Chunuk Bair. By about 9.30 am Kemal stood there with some other officers. He could see the British warships and transports off Anzac Cove and also, coming rapidly up the hill towards him, a group of Turkish soldiers who had been tasked with defending Hill 261 (Battleship Hill). Kemal spoke to them:

'Why are you running away?' 'Sir, the enemy', they said. 'Where?' 'Over there', they said, pointing out hill 261 … I said to the men who were running away, 'You cannot run from the enemy'. 'We have got no ammunition', they said. 'If you haven't got any ammunition, you have got your bayonets', I said, and shouting to them, I made them fix their bayonets and lie down on the ground'. When the men fixed their bayonets and lay down on the ground the enemy also lay down …

[Kemal quoted in Robert Rhodes James, Gallipoli, London, 1999, p 113]

Kemal was later to see this as one of the most crucial moments of the day. The advancing Anzacs had been temporarily halted and he sent at once to have the advance units of the 57th Regiment sent up. For the rest of the day Kemal's men and, in a series of bloody counter-attacks, the soldiers of the 27th Regiment further south at Lone Pine, held back the Anzac attempts to advance. The Anzacs were unable to progress any further than those positions they would ultimately occupy for eight months at Gallipoli. On 25 April 1915, the Anzacs discovered that Turkish soldiers, well led and fighting for their homeland, would stand up to them.

This Turkish steadfastness was revealed at Quinn's Post after the failed Turkish counter-attack of 19 May 1915. On that morning 3,000 Turkish dead lay out along the ridge below the Turkish Soldier Memorial and a further 7,000 had been wounded. Anzac intelligence interpreters, sensing that the Turks may have been demoralised by the spectacular failure of their attack, called out from the trenches at Quinn's that they would be well treated if they surrendered. The most common response was a bomb or a bullet. On another occasion a surrender message was thrown into the Turkish lines and the reply came back - 'You think there are no Turks left. But there are Turks, and Turks' sons!' 

The nature of war meant that the Australian soldiers hardly had any social contact with their enemies. The only ones they were likely to meet were prisoners who were made to labour at times in the Anzac position. While most Turkish POWs were taken to the islands, a POW cage was established in the hills behind Anzac Cove. On one occasion Bean observed prisoners in this cage being subjected to threatening behaviour by one or two Anzacs and he 'wondered why someone hadn't the decency to hit the man who did it straight in the face'. But generally, the Anzacs recognised in the Turk a fellow sufferer and acknowledged his humanity. In his poem 'Anzac' Lieutenant Oliver Hogue wrote:

I reckon the Turk respects us, as we respect the Turk;
Abdul's a good, clean fighter - we've fought him, and we know.