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Ataturk on Anzacs: Worthy Foemen

The commander of the Turkish forces in Gallipoli Mustafa Kemal Ataturk played a crucial role in stopping the swift initial advances the landing troops on 25 April 1915.

His battlefield manoeuvres and stand as a commander on that morning are still studied in war academies across the world. The compassion and sympathy he had shown for the enemy soldiers, especially for the Anzac is part of Australia and New Zealand's national identities.

Aside from his very well known letter to the mothers of Australian and New Zealand soldiers that is inscribed to almost every Anzac memorial across the nation, Australian newspapers of the day had printed lesser known, yet more powerful words of the Pasha.

On April 26, 1930, Australian newspapers published the following letter by Ataturk to the people of Australia.

Via National Library of Australia Digital Collection

And below is the link and the full text:

26 April 1930 (Print date)

WORTHY FOEMEN By Mustafa Kemal Ataturk through all diplomatic channels to Australia.

There is not one of us who went through the ordeal of the world war who has not the deepest respect for the men of Anzac, for we found in them worthy foes, and the glory that was Anzac has inspired among our former fighters sentiments of respect and admiration that no other wartime experiences since the days of the Crusades have inspired.

In these days when you are paying homage to your dead I trust you will not take it as an intrusion on my part if I tender on my own behalf and on that of the new-born Turkish nation, our reverent tribute to your heroes.

The doggedness of your Anzacs and the determination with which they attempted and sometimes achieved the seemingly impossible, has passed into tradition among our men who went through the war, and members of the younger generation are being taught by their fathers, and even in the schools, that if they would prove themselves worthy of all the traditions of a fighting race they must model themselves on those glorious men of Anzac who came out of the sea to grapple with unknown foes in the spirit of the gladiators of old.

Only the tiniest margin separated the failure of the Dardanelles from a great victory for your side. I sometimes think that if the commanders in the highest place had had the spirit of Anzac as it was found among your men the history of the campaign might have been different.

On our side, we had allowed for every contingency, but what we never made allowance for was the possibility of flesh and blood achieving as much as your Anzacs.

Repeatedly the plans of Von Sanders and the German High Command were upset, and their timetables put out of order because they had failed to foresee the value of the Anzacs as fighters and had failed to realise that there might be men capable of attempting and even achieving something that all the textbooks and all the experts declared to be an impossibility.

We are of different race and religion but in the presence of heroism such as Anzac stands for we stand in awe with uncovered heads, paying a soldier’s tribute to a worthy foe.

Were it possible I should like one day to join a band of pilgrims from Turkey visiting Australia to pay on your soil homage to your dead, but as that is not possible I can assure you that we shall always pay tribute on the soil where the majority of your dead sleep-on, the wind swept wastes of Gallipoli, ever sacred to the memory of your heroes.

every year since the end of the war, our people who knew the value of the Anzacs as a fighter have paid tribute at the shrines, and some of our former fighters have, in fact, made long pilgrimages from the interior to do so.

It is our hope and belief that the respect we learned to feel for the men of your race in this tragic conflict will pave the way for such an understanding as will render impossible another conflict of this sort. Could your dead people speak they would say that they share our hope, and in their name we ask you to do what you can to cooperate with us in ensuring the future peace between our respective races.”

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