Turkish Soldier Memorial

Running time
2 min 38 sec

Audio transcript

Towering over the Anzac battlefield, just up the road from Quinn's Post, is the statue of an ordinary Turkish soldier, a 'Mehmet'. Hans Kannengiesser, a German military adviser to the Ottoman Army, described the Mehmets as brave and trustworthy. Initially, the Allies underestimated the fighting capacity of the Turkish army and many thought it would melt away at the first show of force and the cold steel of a bayonet. As the fighting on 25 April 1915 on the slopes beyond the statue leading up towards the heights of Chunuk Bair (Conkbayiri) revealed, well-led Turkish soldiers would fight for their homeland and stand up to the invaders. And perhaps it was the Anzac's misfortune that on 25 April they encountered one of the most able of all the Turkish commanders, Colonel Mustafa Kemal.

Kemal arrived with elements of his 19th Division at Chunuk Bair as small parties of Anzacs were making their way up the slopes. Meeting Turkish soldiers fleeing, Kemal asked them why they were running away and they pointed to the Australians saying they had no ammunition. 'If you haven't got any ammunition', Kemal retorted, 'you have your bayonets'. He made the Turks fix bayonets and lie down in a line in the scrub. The Anzacs, seeing this tactic, did likewise, their impetus up the slope temporarily halted. Kemal's prompt appearance on the battlefield effectively prevented the Anzacs achieving their aim in this sector - the capture of Chunuk Bair. Turkish counter-attacks later in the day, even if they could not drive them into the sea, herded the invading forces into that small segment of the peninsula known as Anzac, which they defended for the rest of the campaign.

Eventually, the Anzacs developed a high regard for the ordinary Turkish soldier and his fighting qualities. They recognised in the Turk a fellow sufferer in war 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.

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