Turkey and Britain now stand "shoulder to shoulder as NATO allies and trusted friends" despite fighting on opposite sides during the 1915 Battle of Canakkale, said a British minister on Wednesday.
The 1915 battle, which took place in Canakkale’s Gallipoli — Gelibolu in Turkish — district, marked a turnaround in favor of the Turks against the Allied forces during World War I.
Britain’s Minister for Europe and the Americas Alan Duncan spoke at a ceremony held at the Canakkale Martyrs' Memorial in the northwestern Turkish province of Canakkale (Dardanelles) to commemorate the 103th anniversary of the Gallipoli Campaign.
Duncan described the event as "a remarkable testament to the value of reconciliation”, adding that Turkey and Great Britain now stood “shoulder to shoulder as NATO allies and trusted friends."
"I stand before you as the son of a Royal Air force officer who just saw the end of the 2nd World War and the grandson of an army corporal from Scotland who fought in the first. It is therefore a profound personal honor to be here today to represent the former Entente Powers as we remember, the service, sacrifice and the suffering of those on both sides of the seismic military encounter which took place here over a century ago."
Duncan praised the hundreds of thousands of soldiers who heroically fought and died for their countries during the battle and said: "Respect and admiration for those who have lived and died for their country rests deep in my soul."
"War exaggerates the natural qualities of its combatants: It turns the bad into monsters and the brave into heroes."
Paying tribute to the nations represented in Canakkale, 103 years ago, Duncan said, "May we all turn enmity into empathy; and wounds into bonds".
Speaking at the same ceremony, Deputy Culture and Tourism Minister Huseyin Yayman said: "The Canakkale defense is a defense for life as well as the defense of youth who gave their lives for their honor and virtue at the same time."
Yayman stated that the Gallipoli campaign of 1915 had an exceptional place for the nations involved in combat.
The events leading up to the momentous battle started in February 1915, when Britain and France decided to launch the Gallipoli Campaign to knock the Ottoman Empire out of the war as quickly as possible by reaching and capturing its capital, Istanbul.
They started their attack on March 18 — the day which is commemorated today as the Canakkale Naval Victory Day — but the waters were filled with a network of mines laid by Ottoman vessels.
On April 25, Allied soldiers landed on the shores of the Gallipoli peninsula. The troops were there as part of a plan to open the Dardanelles Strait on Turkey's Aegean coast to Allied fleets, allowing them to threaten the Ottoman capital.
The Allied forces, however, encountered strong and courageous resistance from the Turks and the campaign turned out to be a costly failure.
Tens of thousands of Turkish nationals and soldiers died, along with tens of thousands of Europeans, plus around 7,000 – 8,000 Australians and nearly 3,000 New Zealanders, referred together as Anzac troops.
Victory against the Allied forces boosted the morale of the Turkish side, who then went on to wage a war of independence between 1919 and 1922, and eventually formed a republic in 1923 from the ashes of the old empire.
Wednesday, April 25, will also see Anzac Day ceremonies which commemorate the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps soldiers who gave their lives a century ago.