Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

At Gallipoli: The Colonel and the Corporal

Turkish Cemetery at Gallipoli with Mustafa Kemal Sculpture

For someone who has read only English-language sources about the Gallipoli campaign there is some adjustment required when you arrive in the area. The Gallipoli peninsula is a Turkish national park. While the Allied sites, monuments, and cemeteries are impressive and properly cared for, the Turkish sites exceed them in quantity and size. 

Mustafa Kemal's Quarters During the Battle

Two heroes of the battle receive a lot of attention. The best known, of course, is Mustafa Kemal, founder of modern Turkey, who earned his reputation here. That being said, what we witnessed can only be called an effort at cult building.  There are countless monuments and images of him (like the inserts) across the Gallipoli peninsula and at Çanakkale with kiosks extolling all his contributions. The yellow house (right) is in the village of Bigali behind the Anzac front line. It was Mustafa Kemal's quarters during the Gallipoli campaign and must-see stop for visitors.

Corporal Seyit's Monument Near the Site of His Heroics

A second Turkish hero, however, is prominent both in Istanbul at the National Military Museum and on the peninsula. He is known as Corporal Seyit. He was an artilleryman at one of the emplacements near Kilid Bahr on the straits, 18 March 1915, the day of the major naval assault. The hoist on his artillery piece broke. Seyit carried three 275kg shells to the loading point on his back. The super-strong corporal seems to be the designated enlisted hero of the battle. Interestingly, he was a participant in the naval, rather than land, campaign.

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