|The official ceremony commemorating the evacuation of the Gallipoli peninsula begins at the Sanctuary within the Shrine. Photo Jim Claven 2013|
The event was organised by the Melbourne-based Friends of Gallipoli Inc group to mark the 98th anniversary of the end of the Gallipoli campaign. The Chairman of the FOGI is Dr John Basarin, who is a well-known expert on WW1 and the Gallipoli story. Mr Marcus Falay of Fairy Chimney Travel, another member of FOGI, was also present at the commemoration. They are both supporters of the work of the Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee and attended our recent fundraiser.
The Evacuation of Gallipoli
20th of December marks the final evacuation of the Gallipoli peninsula after the disastrous land campaign that had begun on the morning of the 25th April in 1915.
|Williams' Pier, North Beach, December 1915, with the Sphinx in the background. At this time the preparations for the evacuation of the Australian and New Zealand troops were well under way. AWM C01621|
Great effort was made to keep the evacuation as secret as possible, out of fear that an Ottoman attack at this time would have resulted in many casualties. The evacuation of the Anzac garrison was undertaken in two stages, with 41,000 soldiers requiring to be evacuated. The final 26,000 left on 19-20th December. The last Australian troops to be evacuated were the men of the Royal Australian Naval Bridging Train, the most decorated unit in the Australian Navy in WW1.
Many of the troops were evacuated to rest camps on Lemnos, where they recuperated and enjoyed well-earned Christmas festivities with their comrades and the Australian nurses on the Island.
|Six Australian soldiers unpack the contents of the special Christmas Billie cans, Lemnos Decemner 1915. AWM P01296|
For more information on the evacuation of the Gallipoli, see the Department of Veterans webpage on the evacuation of Anzac by clicking here.
|Australian soldiers playing cricket hours before their evacuation from the peninsula in 1915. AWM|
Those in attendance included a number of secondary school students, Dr Basarin addressed those gathered, as did the Hon Ted Baillieu, former Victorian Premier and Chair of Victoria's Centenary Committee, as well as Mr Apak, the Consul-General of the Turkish Republic.
Dr Basarin recounted the words of Turkish soldiers who had watched the Anzacs land in April and now looked on with relief as the the Allied soldiers left the peninsula. Ted's speech was poignant, with many referecnes from the letters and diaries of Anzac's as the completed thier evaucatiuon of the peninsula that they had fought so hard on and on whcih many diggers remained in the graves. Both speakers recounted the respect that the Anzacs and Ottoman soldiers had for each other - the Johnnies and the Mehmet's.
|The Hon Ted Baillieu, former Premier and Chair of Victoria's Anzac Centenary Committee address the audience. Second to his left is Mr Apak, the Turkish Consul General, and third to his left is Dr John Basarin. Photo Jim Claven 2013|
|Dignitaries lay a commemorative wreath at the at the Sanctuary within Shrine. Photo Jim Claven 2013|
"Those heroes that 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 now here in this country of ours... you, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well."
The commemorative event is another reminder of the friendship and peaceful understanding that come to peoples following the horrors of war.
We would like to thank Dr John Basarin and the Friends of Gallipoli for the invitation to attend this important commemoration.
The Friends of Gallipoli
This non-political, non-religious and not-for-profit community organisation promotes friendship and understanding between Australia and Turkey through the shared Gallipoli story. Today, this shared history is the backdrop for mutual understanding. The heritage of Australia, New Zealand and Turkey are forever linked in the 1915 Gallipoli campaign. Popular interest in the campaign has led many young people travel to Gallipoli as a rite of passage. But not all have that opportunity.Friends of Gallipoli initiates learning programs and Youth Tours that give young people the chance to explore their mutual ties to Gallipoli. Australian and Turkish youths explore a shared history and the rich and rewarding bounty of international friendship. For further information on the Friends of Gallipoli, click here.
Secretary Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee