Wednesday 29 March 2017

After 100 years, peace and a sad sort of understanding descends on Gallipoli

President Michael D Higgins alongside Prince Harry at the centenary ANZAC commemoration at Gallipoli yesterday
President Michael D Higgins alongside Prince Harry at the centenary ANZAC commemoration at Gallipoli yesterday

Tom Rowley

President Michael D Higgins yesterday took part in the centenary ANZAC commemoration at Gallipoli. The President laid a wreath in honour of the 3,000 Irishmen who fell in Gallipoli 100 years ago.

Events are also taking place this weekend in Ireland to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign. Yesterday Minister of State Aodhan O Riordain addressed an ANZAC dawn service at Grangegorman Military Cemetery. He also attended an event at Glasnevin Cemetery.

Members of the Royal Munster Fusiliers Association marked the anniversary at the Cenotaph in Cork where a minute's silence was observed and wreaths laid. During the Gallipoli campaign, 264 men from Cork lost their lives - 134 were Munster Fusiliers.

Later today, Minister Heather Humphreys will deliver a reading at a special service of remembrance for the Gallipoli landings at Christchurch Cathedral. Rob Taylor, New Zealand Deputy Head of Mission, and Dr Ruth Adler, Australian Ambassador, will also take attend.

Meanwhile in Gallipoli, descendants of troops who fought at Gallipoli scrambled on to the Turkish shoreline this weekend, a century after their ancestors - the medals of their forebears tucked beneath their life jackets.

As they crossed the Dardanelles Straits, the mast of a yacht glinted in the sunshine. The sea was calm. Looking down on the deep blue water, it was hard to imagine the chaos that reigned here 100 years ago.

One of the descendants, Jon Toohey, sat back and shook his head. His great uncle, Thomas Toohey, died that first day, aged just 22, as the Royal Dublin Fusiliers dashed off the collier River Clyde and battled their way ashore.

"It is beautiful turquoise water today," he said. "That day, of course, it was red. He came from a very poor family in Dublin and had no choice but to fight. They were faced with terrible gunfire as soon as they landed."

A marker commemorates Private Toohey at a cemetery just above V Beach. He was one of the 29,000 British and Irish to fall here before evacuation in December 1915.

Australia lost 8,700 men and New Zealand lost 2,700. Nearly 10,000 French troops lost their lives, along with 1,350 British Indian soldiers.

For their part, the Turks, defending their homeland from attempted invasion, lost more than 56,600 men.

Yesterday, a century on, nobody would be allowed to forget them.

Sunday Independent

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