Charles laments shame of two wars as hell of Gallipoli marked 100 years on
Published 25/04/2015 | 02:30
Families of soldiers who served in the Gallipoli campaign of World War One, along with world leaders, streamed on to the battle sites yesterday for ceremonies marking 100 years since the disastrous British-led invasion.
Representatives of countries that faced off in one of the most iconic events of the war were honouring the dead in a joint ceremony on the eve of the centenary since troops landed on beaches there.
President Michael D Higgins joined Prince Charles and his son Prince Harry alongside Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the huge Canakkale Martyrs' Memorial, which commemorates thousands of local men who were buried in unmarked graves.
Listening in the audience were other world leaders, including the prime ministers of Australia and New Zealand, as Prince Charles praised the heroism and humanity shown by soldiers from both sides a century ago.
He said: "All those who fought at Gallipoli, whether landing on or defending its shores, hailed from so many different nations and peoples, from an almost infinite variety of backgrounds and walks of life. And, whilst their origins were diverse, they were all thrust into a very different world than they would have ever known or imagined before.
"Indeed, in 1915, both sides were united by challenges that neither could escape - the devastating firepower of modern warfare, the ghastly diseases that added to the death tolls, the devastating summer heat which brought plagues of insects, and in winter, just before the battle ended, the biting cold that many wrote was worse than the shelling itself."
An estimated 130,000 people were killed and the sea famously ran red with the blood of the fallen. Prince Charles said it was shameful that, despite two world wars, peace had not persisted.
"If I may dare say so, we all have a shared duty, each in our own way as individuals, but also together as leaders, communities and nations, to find ways to overcome that intolerance - to fight against hatred and prejudice in pursuit of greater harmony - so that we can truly say we have honoured the sacrifices of all those who fought and died on battlefields here, at Gallipoli, and elsewhere."
There was tight security on the peninsula, with blocks manned by scores of police on the usually quiet roads through the beautiful, unspoilt national park. The remarkable memorial features a 148ft-long relief of fighting Turks, led by Mustafa Kemal, who was to become Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey.
When Prince Charles laid a wreath at the statue's feet, the only sounds were birdsong and the whirr of camera shutters.
Prominent guests from Africa and the Middle East sat on the front row of the VIP section, behind tables with bottles of water and spring flowers.
"Despite the appalling sacrifices made by so many in two world wars, intolerance combined with the willingness to use the most barbaric violence remain a persistent and prevailing source of division and conflict," Prince Charles said.
The Turkish navy sailed in a single file down the Dardanelles, while fighter jets performed an air show above the spectators. Ceremonies later moved to the British memorial site, where Prince Harry also delivered a speech.
The main events are scheduled for today, the anniversary of the dawn landings by troops - mostly from Australia and New Zealand - who were rowed in to narrow beaches with scant cover only to encounter rugged hills and fire from well concealed Turkish defenders.