The Gallipoli Campaign is considered by many as the greatest war in Australian and Turkish history.
The stories of veterans have been passed down from generation to generation in the form of oral and written history. Some might say Gallipoli war stories are the most honoured ones in both Australian as well as Turkish history.
These stories vary in nature. Some bewildering for the reader, others make the reader smile while many make the reader become lost in deep thought or start shed tears.
While there are numerous stories, I wish to relate some unforgettable ones that I have read or heard:
Performing our own funeral prayers:
Ali from the town of Off recounted a memory that would haunt him. “Our lieutenant told us that we were to fight anytime soon. The other squad currently fighting with enemy’s soldiers had heavy casualties.
Knowing this, we were all making shahadah (creed of Islam) and dhikr (remembrance of God). The lieutenant told us that we were going to be martyred, but suggested that we should die while in the state of Wadu (ablution).
There was no water readily available, so we performed tayammum (dry ablution using sand or earth). His final command was for us to perform our own funeral prayer. We lined up in the trench and performed our own funeral prayers. On that same day, the lieutenant and most of the soldiers in our squadron were killed.
Reciprocally dressing enemies’ wounds
ANZAC soldier L H Brett recollects an encounter with a Turkish solider. “I was wounded during an attack at night. I took a torch from the pocket of a severely wounded soldier and tried to help other injured soldiers.
Suddenly, a wounded Turkish soldier appeared before me. He didn’t attack, nor did he seem to want to attack. He too was wounded and exhausted. He saw my wounded state and pointed to my wounds. Through a few gestures, we understood each other and wrapped each other’s wounds. We shook hands and parted as I returned to the trenches for proper medical assistance.”
Return of fire by showering gifts
Haji Ahmed related that fire was not always fought with fire. “A French soldier threw something dirty to the Turkish trench at night. The Turkish soldiers put hazelnuts in a handkerchief and threw it to the French soldiers’ trench. In return, the French soldiers threw biscuits in a handkerchief to Turkish soldiers’ trench. After that, the French soldiers never fired from this trench on our soldiers.”
Comedy in the trenches
There was a trench that had little ammunition remaining. Not wanting to waste any, one Turkish solider took it upon himself to waste the enemy’s ammunition. He stuck his hat on his rifle and lifted that rifle above the trench. The ANZAC soldiers shot at the hat repeatedly. Once his hat was no longer useful, the Turkish solider resorted to funny hand gestures taunting the ANZACs in the hope of getting a laugh and at the same time wasting more of their ammunition.
Killing of the popular enemy singer
During the campaign, the nights were generally quiet as the soldiers would rest. One night, an ANZAC soldier played a song on his guitar. As soon as he finished, there came an applause from the Turkish soldiers’ trenches followed by a song by one Turkish soldier who had an astounding voice.
The ANZAC soldiers applauded in return. Then, ANZAC and Turkish soldiers would write their song requests on paper, wrap it around a rock and fling towards each other’s trenches.
One night, however, there was no answer or song from the Turkish trench. The ANZACs kept up the communication as they wanted to know why the solider with the astounding voice would not sing.
The Turkish soldiers threw their response note, “The man you ask of? You killed him two days ago”.
Lest we forget.