It’s hard to believe that a military campaign resulting in such catastrophic loss of life as Gallipoli could come to be known colloquially as the “Last Gentlemen’s War”. Yet, for Turks and Australians, acts of respect and even care on the battlefield have come to symbolise the regard between the two nations today.
On 24 May 1915 – almost a month after Anzac forces landed on the beachhead – a temporary ceasefire was declared to enable both sides to bury the thousands of dead and recover their injured. Anzac and Ottoman troops worked together from 7.30 a.m., until the fighting resumed nine hours later.
But the ceasefire wasn’t the only gesture of almost surreal civility amid the carnage, as Turkish and Allied forces dug into trenches that were sometimes only metres apart.
“Australians left home with an image of the Turks as barbaric animals, because we were fighting with the Kaiser,” says Mehmet Evin, president of the Turkish chapter of the RSL.
“But once they actually got to Gallipoli they realised, hang on, Johnny Turk’s not too bad after all! They would exchange gifts over the trenches – Australian Johnny would throw over a packet of cigarettes; Johnny Turk would throw over fruit or whatever.… Read more..