Tony Wright: New Gallipoli war memorial unveiled in Wellington is a fraud

OPINION: The new Gallipoli war memorial sculpture in Wellington is a fraud.

On Monday, a new war memorial sculpture was unveiled at the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park that depicts the bonds forged between New Zealand and Turkey at Gallipoli in 1915.

Paid for by Turkey, but created by former New Zealand Defence Force artist Matt Gauldie in conjunction with the Turkish Embassy, the sculpture shows the hats worn by a Wellington infantryman and his Ottoman opponent at Gallipoli - but the main part of the memorial are the famous words attributed to the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, allegedly written in 1934.

However, there is no evidence Atatürk wrote or said these famous words at all:

"Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives ... You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours ... You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well."

Gallipoli memorial at the New Zealand National War Memorial in Wellington
The words on the sculpture are beautiful - but there is no evidence to suggest Mustafa Kemal Atatürk wrote or said them. (Newshub)

They are beautiful, emotive words - but to attribute them to Atatürk dishonours the memories of those soldiers we strive so diligently to 'remember' each Anzac Day.

I don't want to disparage the memory of all those thousands who fought and died at Gallipoli, and not least Atatürk himself, whose military mind was perhaps more responsible than any other for the failure of the British campaign at Gallipoli.

While the incompetent British generals dithered, delayed, and senselessly frittered the lives of their soldiers away in futile attacks - Atatürk's forthright actions meant his Ottoman soldiers were always in the right place at the right time.

If there was one man responsible for 'winning' Gallipoli, it might well have been him.

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk - the founder of modern Turkey
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was a brilliant military commander and the founder of modern Turkey. (Getty)

But why are these false words attributed to Atatürk etched onto our Gallipoli memorials?

Several Turkish, Australian and Kiwi historians have researched the history of Atatürk's supposed Gallipoli words, and the general consensus is that most of the words were probably written in some form or another by Turkish Interior Minister Sukru Kaya in 1953 - 15 years after Atatürk had died.

The version we now know and use only came into existence in 1978, after Australian Gallipoli veteran Alan Campbell tinkered with the 1953 version and added more words to it for a Gallipoli memorial in Campbell's home city of Brisbane.

Gallipoli memorials emblazoned with Campbell's words, but attributed to Atatürk, were subsequently built during the 1980s at Anzac Cove, Canberra, and eventually at the Atatürk Memorial at Tarakena Bay in Wellington.

Atatürk's words on a memorial at Anzac Cove in Gallipoli
Atatürk's supposed words are also on a memorial at Anzac Cove in Gallipoli. (Getty)

Other Gallipoli memorials emblazoned with the false words and paid for by Turkey have appeared since; one is in the Auckland Domain.

The one unveiled on Monday at the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park is just the latest.

So, if Atatürk never said or wrote these words, why do politicians and members of the royal family say that he did each Anzac Day?

The whole thing has become a myth trumpeted as fact - when actually it is simply a fraud.

I might get another 'please explain' letter from the Turkish Embassy in Wellington for writing this piece, such as in 2015 after I did a TV news story on the genocide of Armenians by Turkey a century ago.

Ahead of Anzac Day, I'll be asking the Government, the New Zealand Defence Force and the Returned Services Association why they use these fake, albeit beautiful words, in their Anzac Day programmes.

Kiwis who get up before dawn and gather at memorials around the country to honour and remember our military history each Anzac Day don't deserve to be lied to.

 

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