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Compass – Embracing the Enemy (2005)

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A truce at Gallipoli education content clip 1, 2

Original classification rating: PG. This clip chosen to be PG

Clip description

Only a few weeks after the 25th April 1915 landing at Anzac Cove, the troops of both sides organised an unofficial truce in order to pick up their wounded, bury the dead and share a cup of tea.

Curator’s notes

This is a story that doesn’t in the least glorify war but commemorates the heroes of both Australia and Turkey at Gallipoli.

It’s a simple and beautiful story told through some of the official still photographs taken at the time. Even the historians telling the story clearly feel the emotion of what it meant for those battle-hardened soldiers to respect each other’s right to bury their dead and pay their respects to their opposite number. It is a good example of the ability of Compass to find uplifting and human stories, and tell them movingly and effectively.

This incident was dramatised in the ABC drama 1915 (1982).

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip shows black-and-white photographs of Turkish and Allied soldiers in combat and in the trenches during the Gallipoli campaign during the First World War. Anzac Cove, landing stations and footage of soldiers in the trenches are also shown. Photographs of the unofficial truce, which was held on 24 May 1915, include graphic scenes of the dead lying on the ground, soldiers on steep terrain and a photograph of an Australian soldier offering water to a wounded Turkish soldier. Former New South Wales Turkish community leader Muzaffer Orel reflects tearfully on the truce. The story of the truce is told by Rusty Priest, past president of the NSW branch of the Returned Services League (RSL), who suggests that during the truce the soldiers would have discussed the futility of war. Actors read the words of Anzacs and Turkish soldiers. Geraldine Doogue, the presenter of the television program Compass, is the narrator and solemn music accompanies the clip.

Educational value points

  • The 8-hour truce on 24 May 1915 was agreed upon to enable the Turks and Anzacs to collect their dead and wounded. A major assault launched by the Turks on the Allied troops at Anzac Cove on 19 May 1915 had resulted in casualties of 10,000 on the Turkish side and 628 on the Anzac side. On 20 May several Australians sought to rescue Turkish wounded from the narrow strip of land between the opposing forces known as no-man’s-land. Turkish losses were so severe that a Turkish officer, led blindfolded through the Anzac lines, requested a truce so that they could bury their dead. Both sides honoured the truce.
  • The close proximity of opposing forces on the Gallipoli battleground, scenes of which are shown in the clip, provides a partial explanation for the truce. The farthest point of the battleground inland was 1 km and its length was a little more than 2 km. Into this small area were concentrated 20,000 men together with their equipment. The Anzac forces were surrounded on three sides by the Turks who continually bombarded them. Because of the steepness and rockiness of the terrain and the close proximity of the fighting, the soldiers were unable to bury their dead.
  • The truce replicated the Christmas truce, a brief unofficial cessation of hostilities that occurred between German and British troops along the Western Front near Ypres, Messines, St Yves and Neuve Chapelle during Christmas 1914. Visits occurred in no-man’s-land, where gifts and Christmas greetings were exchanged. The dead and wounded were also retrieved by burial parties. The truce was fiercely opposed by commanding officers who, in succeeding years, ordered artillery bombardments on Christmas Eve to ensure that there were no lulls in the conflict.
  • The battle for the Gallipoli peninsula was a disaster for both the Allied forces and the Turks in terms of loss of life. Although the Turkish defenders may have been ultimately victorious, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs in Australia records 86,692 Turkish deaths. In comparison, there were approximately 44,000 Allied deaths, 8,709 of whom were Australians. Many of the men died from their wounds and from diseases such as enteric fever and dysentery.
  • Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the Allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula to make way for an advance on Constantinople (now Istanbul). This would open up a route through to Russia and thus enable the Allies to assist Russia in fighting German and Austrian forces on the Eastern Front. Turkey had allied itself to Germany and the Turkish troops put up an unexpectedly strong defence of their territory. Within days of the Allied landings in April 1915, the War was at a stalemate. This was followed by the August Offensive, which failed, and the Allied troops were evacuated from the peninsula in December.
  • The battle for the Gallipoli peninsula has particular significance for both Australia and Turkey. Both sides suffered great losses and, for both, the events of the War contributed to the forging of their national consciousness. In 1981 the Turkish Government renamed Ari Burnu beach Anzac Cove. In the Australian War Memorial grounds in Canberra, there is a memorial to Kemal Atatürk, first President of Turkey and Gallipoli war commander. In 2006 the RSL permitted descendants of Turkish war veterans to march in the annual Anzac Day parade.

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