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Australia PM hails Gallipoli soldiers on Anzac Day

25 april 2015, 11:09
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Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott walks with his wife during the dawn service in Anzac Cove in commemoration of the Gallipoli War. ©AFP
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott walks with his wife during the dawn service in Anzac Cove in commemoration of the Gallipoli War. ©AFP

 Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Saturday hailed the sacrifice of the thousands of soldiers from Australia and New Zealand killed in the Battle of Gallipoli, 100 years after they launched the first attacks on the western Turkish peninsula, AFP reports.

Abbott addressed the traditional dawn service on the Gallipoli peninsula at what is now called Anzac Cove where the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) came ashore in amphibious assaults on the morning of April 25, 1915.

Some 8,700 Australian and 2,800 New Zealand soldiers died thousands of miles from home in a devastating loss for the then thinly populated young nations that helped forge their national identities.

"Like every generation since, we are here on Gallipoli because we believe that the Anzacs represented Australians at our best," said Abbott.

Australia and New Zealand still commemorate Anzac Day on April 25 as their most important national day and the moment when their independent identities began to emerge.

"If they had not been emblematic of the nation we thought we were, Anzac Day would not have been commemorated from that time until this in every part of our country," said Abbott.

He recalled how the first Anzacs were "tradesmen, clerks, labourers, farmers and professionals" from all levels of society, "ordinary men (who) did extraordinary things".

The nine-month Battle of Gallipoli is generally seen as a devastating military failure for the Allied powers against the German-backed Ottoman forces, who managed to resist the attempts to break through towards Constantinople.

The last Allied soldiers were evacuated in January 1916 with almost no casualties, in stark contrast to the bloody horror of the campaign itself.

"The Gallipoli campaign was a failure, of course; the only really successful part was the evacuation," admitted Abbott.

"But the survivors of Gallipoli and their reinforcements went on to become some of the world's finest soldiers," he added.

Estimates of the total numbers killed in the conflict differ, but most sources say at least 45,000 soldiers lost their lives on the Allied side including British, French, Gurkha, Newfoundland and New Zealand troops. A higher number, around 86,000, also died on the Ottoman side.

Turkey had on Friday held the main international ceremonies for the Battle of Gallipoli, sending a message of peace and reconciliation between the former foes.

However, the decision to bring forward the anniversary by one day was bitterly criticised by Armenians as an attempt to overshadow commemorations in Yerevan to mark the centenary of the mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.


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