The commemoration of ANZAC Day (for Australia New Zealand Army Corps) on April 25th is an important event in Turkey.
Each year more than 10,000 visitors descend on the towns of Çanakkale, Eceabat and Gelibolu (map) in the week surrounding that day, packing local hotels, straining local transport, and keeping police busy collecting inebriated celebrants who occasionally get into brawls.
A visit to the battlefields can be a touching experience, but to visit in late April you should plan far ahead. You’d be well advised to consider an organized tour, if only because tour companies reserve most of the hotel roomswell in advance. Alternately, you can take an overnight excursion from Istanbul.
The premier event of the commemorations is a dawn remembrance service attended by diplomats, high military officers, descendants of those who fought here, and thousands of solemn visitors.
Before the release of Peter Weir’s film Gallipoli, starring Mel Gibson and Mark Lee, the battlefields of the Gallipoli peninsula were not on Turkey’s tourist route.
“Except for the occasional organized tours not more than half a dozen visitors arrive from one year’s end to the other,” wrote Alan Moorehead in his book Gallipoli(1956).
All that changed drastically after the film’s release in 1981, when the significance of the battles for Australians and New Zealanders was brought to the world’s attention, and the losses sustained in battle put into perspective.
Alan Moorehead’s book Gallipoli, is the most accessible account of the campaign. Many others, from historical novels and soldiers’ diaries to fact-filled technical military histories have been written.
For a more recent, more critical and revised version of events, more technical than Moorehead but still quite readable if you’re a history buff, is Robin Prior’s Gallipoli: The End of the Myth. Prior, an Australian professor and historian of the military, has tapped many historical sources and records from the countries involved for his new look on the campaign and—from the British Empire’s point-of-view—its ultimate failure.
For more info on the annual Anzac Day commemorations and activities (April 24th & 25th), see these websites:
—by Tom Brosnahan