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The Great War
Prologue Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Timeline Maps & Battles The Shaping of the 21st Century Historians
Historians OverviewA. Mete Tuncoku

Gallipoli - A Turkish Perspective
A. Mete Tuncoku
"The war at Gallipoli, for Turks, is a holy war.

"We are fighting for the sake of Allah, for the sake of God, and for the protection for the heartland, Turkey. The Australians and the New Zealanders landed on 25th of April, early morning. I think at about 3:00 am Mustafa Kemal, who was the Commander of the 19th Division on the peninsula was inspecting the troops.

"Suddenly he met certain Turkish soldiers. They were retreating, and Kemal said, 'Why are you retreating?' And they said, 'Because they are coming: the Australians are coming; the British are coming; the enemy is coming.'

"Mustafa Kemal orders them to stop and start fighting back.

Turkish Flag
Turkish Flag
"Then he says, 'During the time that you will fight and stop the enemy, the others will come and reinforce you and we will be able to win the battle.' And that's what happened. When the few soldiers were trying to fight against the Australians and the New Zealanders, the other reinforcements were brought immediately. That's why Mustafa Kemal in his diary said, 'That was the decisive moment on the landing, that is the moment I won the battle.'

"Because the Australians, when they saw that Turks were fighting from up in the hills, they thought that there were a great number of Turks there so they hesitated and they stopped. That was a mistake on their part. Just before the attack, his famous order is: 'I'm not ordering you to attack, I'm ordering you to die.' Meaning that you will either win or die no third alternative.

"Think about the psychology of the Turkish soldiers. We have to remember again, he's fighting for the Motherland, for the heartland, and he's fighting a holy war. So dying for the country is something very important, and also the order expresses that there's no other choice. We'll either die or let the enemy pass through and occupy Istanbul.

"At some places the trenches were very close… there were about eight meters or ten meters between the two trenches.

"It's very close: I mean they could hear the voices of each other. They could hear the Turks singing songs in the evening; or the Turks could hear the talks of the Anzacs in the trenches. And it was a stagnant war. I mean, they were just waiting for each other to attack so that they would defend their trenches. So during these critical stages, there were exchanges of gifts. For example, the Anzacs offered canned food, beef; and the Turks in exchange, gave tobacco because they had plenty of tobacco. There were exchanges of letters.

"There were some official exchanges between the officers of the two parties. And these exchanges are interesting to show what each party was thinking about each other.

"They asked questions of each other, 'Why are you fighting?' 'Why are you here?'

"During this conversation there were no hostile feelings on the part of both parties. It's very interesting. I mean, can you imagine that war? During the eight-and-a-half months they were fighting, thousands of soldiers were killed on both sides, and still they are not fighting each other. The messages left by the Anzacs after the evacuation are quite interesting. There are letters written to Turkish soldiers saying: 'Johnny The Turk, good-bye. We left lots of food for you, enjoy them.'"

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