(photo credit: Associated Press)
Anzac Day, which marks the ill-fated 1915 landing at Turkey's Gallipoli Peninsula by Australian and New Zealand soldiers during WWI, was commemorated on Tuesday in a grey, dawn ceremony at the Commonwealth War Graves cemetery in Jerusalem.
The event on Mount Scopus was attended by some 60 people, including representatives of the allied countries that fought in the war and of Turkey, against whose soldiers the Anzacs fought.
Australian Ambassador Tim George said there was "exceptional bravery" on both sides. Although there were no triumphs for the Anzacs, he said, they fought with courage and ingenuity. WWI, he said, was the first time that Australians and New Zealanders fought in distinct units under their own flags. Gallipoli was the first action for both countries in the war, he said, adding that around 10,000 Anzacs had died there. Altogether, approximately 60,000 Australian soldiers paid the supreme sacrifice in the WWI, said George. The New Zealand losses were proportionately higher.
George remarked on the large number of Jews who were killed on active service with the Anzacs. He singled out Gen. Sir John Monash. An officer in the Australian Citizen Forces, when WWI broke out he was chosen to command the 3rd Division of the Australian Imperial Force that was sent to Gallipoli. Monash served there with distinction and was subsequently promoted.
Anzac Day, the ambassador said, was being marked with dawn services all over Australia and New Zealand. Anzac Day this year coincided with Holocaust Remembrance Day, which, he said, made April 25 "an enormously significant day."
Israel Police Chief Superintendent Asher Ben Artzi who had laid a wreath on behalf of the police pointed out that Jewish soldiers from Palestine had fought alongside the Anzacs. "You were not alone," he said. "The Zion Mule Corps also participated at Gallipoli."
In Turkey, the warring sides in the Battle of Gallipoli jointly remembered their dead hours before a dawn service on Tuesday to mark the 91st anniversary of the devastating campaign.
Turkish Environment Minister Osman Pepe, Australia's Governor-General Michael Jeffery and New Zealand's speaker of parliament, Margaret Wilson, laid wreaths at a war monument erected near the site of the former battlefields to commemorate thousands killed in the campaign that began on April 25, 1915. They were joined by representatives from Britain, France, Canada, Germany, India, Ireland, Bangladesh and South Africa.
Anzac day marks the day troops from Australia and New Zealand landed at Gallipoli in an attempt to take control of the Bosporus and Dardanelles and capture Istanbul, 290 kilometers to the east.
On Monday, Turkish soldiers fired shots in the air as a band played the national anthems of the countries. An Ottoman Janissary band marched by.
"Our coming together each year on April 25th on these fields is an indication that we have drawn the necessary lessons from the bloody battle that has shown us the dark side of war and that we have sewn the value of peace onto our hearts," Pepe said.
Anzacs, as the Australian and New Zealand forces who took part are known, formed the backbone of a 200,000-man, British-led army that landed at Gallipoli.
Poor coordination between the Allies' naval and ground forces gave the Turks time to reinforce their positions. The British-led force ran into stiff resistance and eventually was evacuated from the peninsula in January 1916.
Nearly 1 million soldiers fought in Gallipoli's trenches. The Allies recorded 55,000 killed in fighting, while 10,000 were reported missing and 21,000 died of disease. Turkish casualties were estimated at 250,000.
Many consider the Gallipoli campaign to have been central to the creation of national identity in all three nations.
"For us the importance of Gallipoli" Pepe said "is that it is the place where the first signs of the creation of the Turkish Republic emerged."
Some 20,000 visitors attended last year's ceremony - the 90th anniversary.