Speech by H.E. Ambassador Damla Yeşim Say at Cullen Breakfast on the presentation on New Zealand Story from Gallipoli to the Somme, delivered by Dr. Christopher Pugsley.

Damla Yeşim Say 19.04.2016


Distinguished Guests,

Good Morning.

Before I start I want to particularly acknowledge our young friends representing different colleges of Wellington.

I feel privileged to be part of today’s very timely and meaningful discussion. In a few days, we will be honouring and paying our respect to all our fallen in Gallipoli in 1915.

Let me begin by thanking our keynote speaker, Mr Christopher Pugsley who is an exceptional historian and practically a household name amongst scholars on military history in New Zealand, Turkey and beyond.

We have learned a lot today from him. His balanced reflection of the events surrounding the Gallipoli campaign has given us a different perspective to contemplate on.

His first booktitled “Gallipoli: The New Zealand Story”, one of the most important works on New Zealand involvement in World War One, had been translated into Turkish and published last year within the context of the 100th Anniversary of the Campaign. We now have a very important book to refer to, in our own language, Turkish, on the significance of this Campaign for New Zealand.

Gallipoli was an important turning point historically for Turkey as well. It has laid the grounds for the Turkish War of Independence, under the leadership of Atatürk. He, as a young commander, defended the peninsula and changed the fate of the campaign. Again, he was the one, this time as the leader of a new nation, who sent the famous compassionate message to the Anzac mothers and cemented the reconciliation with New Zealand and Australia.

Apart from being a fight to the bitter end, the Çanakkale Battle is defined by historians as an epic due to the extraordinary resistance and massive causalities of both sides. The Turkish Nation lost almost a whole young generation. The most prominent high schools and universities in İstanbul didn’t have any graduates for two years in a row.

While our soldiers, Mehmets were defending their own motherland, the ANZACs have started soul searching for their national identity by questioning why they were fighting in these faraway lands.

As they had never encountered before, neither the ANZAC nor the Mehmets had any feeling of animosity towards each other. Yet the circumstances brought them together in a narrow and harsh fighting land. The intensity of the battle not only strengthened their resolve and quest for national identity for both sides, but also brought about the most humane side of these young people. Both sides showed remarkable heroism, gallantry and mutual respect. That is why it is called the “Last Gentlemen’s war”.

Today the battlegrounds of Gallipoli, where soldiers of different nations- our sons- peacefully lie side by side, in our bosom stand as timeless monuments dedicated to peace and friendship. This coming Sunday and Monday, representatives of many nations will come together in Gallipoli to pay their respects to them as well as all who lost their lives for their countries.

Today, our countries, bitter enemies of the past, share the pride of setting an example on how to forge a unique friendship out of a painful war.

Today, the Turkish Nation treasures and nourishes the remarkable friendship it built with New Zealand and Australia in Gallipoli.

Today we are standing here a century later, side by side, for a common cause: To honour our fallen, to cherish their memories.

Today, the presence of our young friends here makes me confident that they will not be forgotten and we will continue to remember, search and contemplate on the significance of this epic battle in our nation making processes.

Thank you all.

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