Timeline: disputed provenance of Ataturk's words of comfort to Anzacs' families
25 April-20 December 1915
Allied invasion and operations at Gallipoli. 80,000 Turkish, 8,700 Australian, 2,700 New Zealand, 34,000 UK, 9,800 French, 1,350 Indian troops killed.
25 April 1930
Queensland regional newspaper publishes message from Ataturk praising the fortitude of Anzac troops at Gallipoli.
25 April 1931
Turkey’s first president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, praises the Anzacs to Brisbane’s Daily Mail as worthy foe to whom Turks “will always pay our tribute on the soil where the majority of your dead sleep on the windswept wastes of Gallipoli”.
25 August 1931
Turkish interior minister Sukru Kaya delivers a speech for Ataturk at Gallipoli. He speaks with pride of the Turkish dead, acknowledges enemy casualties but speaks of them as invaders.
Pilgrimage to Gallipoli aboard the Duchess of Richmond. Wreaths laid at Gallipoli. Kaya is in Gallipoli.Ataturk sends brief message of greeting to pilgrims.
25 April 1934
The Star newspaper (Australia) publishes brief message from Ataturk acknowledging “all” who died at Gallipoli; there is no specific mention of Anzacs.
10 November 1953
The Turkish newspaper, Dunya, publishes an interview with Kaya in which he says he delivered a speech at Gallipoli in 1934 drafted by, and on behalf of, Ataturk praising the Turkish and enemy troops. A Turkish historian says the words Kaya claims to have spoken are: “Those heroes that shed their blood in this country! You are in the soil of a friendly country. Rest in peace. You are lying side by side, bosom to bosom with Mehmets.”
Australian veterans’ delegation to Gallipoli hears official greeting that includes: “Oh heroes, those who spilt their blood on this land, you are sleeping side-by-side in close embrace with our Mehmets. Oh mothers of distant lands, who sent their sons to battle here, stop your tears. Your sons are in our bosoms. They are serenely in peace. Having fallen here now, they have become our own sons.”
Documented Eceabat Guide (for Gallipoli region) attributes to Ataturk the words: “Those heroes that shed their blood in this country! You are in the soil of a friendly country. Rest in peace. You are lying side by side, bosom to bosom with Mehmets. Your mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries! Wipe away your tears. Your sons are in our bosom. They are in peace. After having lost their lives on this soil they have become our sons as well.” They are the same words Kaya claimed in a 1953 interview to have spoken for Ataturk in 1934.
An unnamed Australian Anzac visits Gallipoli, meets retired Turkish schoolteacher Tahsin Ozeken, who reads to the veteran from the 1969 Eceabat guidebook the words attributed to Ataturk. Veteran returns to Brisbane, recounts the words to Alan J Campbell, Gallipoli veteran organising a monument for Brisbane.
Correspondence between Campbell and Ulug Igdemir of Turkish Historical Society. Campbell asks where the “Ataturk words” in guidebook came from. Igdemir says Kaya said the words for Ataturk in 1934, refers to Kaya’s 1953 newspaper interview, sends Campbell an English translation of the words. Campbell says he wants to inscribe on a Gallipoli memorial in Brisbane the words Igdemir has confirmed for him although with a slight variation. Igdemir does not object when Campbell adds the line “there is no difference between the Johnnies and Mehmets to us” but asks for other corrections.
Anzac monuments featuring the speech purportedly delivered by Kaya and attributed to Ataturk in 1934 are commemorated in Canberra and Gallipoli.
Honest History secretary David Stephens and historian Peter Stanley raise questions about when and to whom the purported Ataturk speech was delivered.
According to Ozakinci’s serialised article in Butun Dunya: “The words that appear with the signature ‘Ataturk 1934’ in the English inscriptions on the monuments … do not belong to Ataturk.”