Why did the terrible loss at Gallipoli become such a key moment in the development of New Zealand, Australian and Turkish nationalism but assume an even more significant role in the case of Australia and Turkey? Although the Gallipoli Campaign of 1915 did not go down in the history books as one of the most significant battles of the twentieth century, it became extremely important for the development of nationalism in Australia, New Zealand and Turkey.
This essay will investigate why Gallipoli became such a significant moment in the development of Australian, New Zealand and Turkish nationalism. Secondly this essay will discuss why the battle became even more significant in Turkish and Australian history than it did in New Zealand history. Before the Gallipoli campaign of 1915 New Zealand was simply just another dominion of the British Empire. As a nation the New Zealanders were yet to really emerge or prove themselves on the international stage.
However, the historian Marilyn Lake argues that New Zealand’s participation in the Gallipoli campaign puts the country on the map. Lake contends that once New Zealanders or indeed any other nation’s soldiers land on the shores of Gallipoli in 1915 a nation emerges on the world stage from a terrible loss of life. Although New Zealand troops had fought overseas before they had only played a minor role usually in support of the British however, at Gallipoli New Zealand troops play a crucial role.
Unfortunately for the New Zealand soldiers involved in the battle; many of them were to pay a heavy price and indeed for such a small country New Zealanders did lose a disproportionate amount of soldiers. However historians like Lake argue that this sacrifice by the soldiers was not in vain, “At war, their sons might make the ‘supreme sacrifice,’ but their collective death would bring forth immortal life, the birth of a nation. ” New Zealand emerges out of world war one and especially Gallipoli as a new born nation, a nation which suffered, yet out of this crucible of suffering they cast a national identity.
Over the years New Zealand develops into a strong young nation born out of suffering caused by their British parents. Likewise across the ditch in Australia the Gallipoli campaign was to carve out a national identity. Australia was also a dominion during the First World War however; it still had very strong ties with its British parents as did New Zealand. As the historian K. S. Inglis argues Australia as with New Zealand had been a minnow on the world stage up until Gallipoli and that their young modern history was somewhat dull and uneventful.
Unlike New Zealand where there had been the Maori Land Wars which was arguably a significant conflict, Australia had only had minor skirmishes in the Frontier Wars which were hardly recognized in an international context. The historians Mark McKenna and Stuart Ward pose an important question here to those who study history, “Why a young nation at the far ends of the earth should have turned this one military disaster in 1915—this failed invasion of Turkey—into its key national narrative? Well for a start Gallipoli and subsequently Anzac day celebrations were to become points for what some historians have termed a ‘national creation myth,’ special days with significant meanings when stories and heroic tales of militarism are told and a unique national sense of pride emerges. The historian Bruce Scates argues that no more were places like, “Anzac Cove, Shrapnel Gully, Quinn’s post were not abstract or empty place names- they resonate with meaning, with the saga of ‘the landing. ’ These are places where Australian nationalism and pride was born.
Where every year young Australians still travel to from a distant land on the other side of the world to reminisce on now hallowed turf, that back in 1915 were hills of death and destruction. Lake argues that like New Zealand, Australian nationalism emerges in what he identifies as a ‘baptism of blood’ on the fields of Gallipoli. Australia and its new sense of nationality come of age in Gallipoli. After the battle Australians finally emerge out of the shadow of their British parents from where they now stand tall on the world stage. However, Gallipoli plays a much more significant role in Australia than it does in New Zealand.
This significance can be attributed to the sense of national culture and identity that grows out of the Gallipoli campaign. Although some contest when the actual term the ‘Digger’ was first coined, there can be no doubt that after Gallipoli the Australian fighting soldiers that took part in the campaign were through and through ‘Diggers. ’ As the historian T. H. E Travers states, the stories of the ‘Digger’ embodied all that Australians and especially outback Australians loved about their country as they were deemed brave and tenacious but most importantly they showed ‘mateship’ to their fellow ‘mates. The idea behind ‘mateship’ was shown when Australian soldiers lived, fought and died for each other side by side on the fields of Gallipoli, a national identity would soon follow on from this tradition. As the historian Inglis contests Australian soldiers at Gallipoli realized that their national identity and attitudes were distinctly different from that of their British parents, whether it was the lack of professionalism or other social and indeed physical attributes.
Therefore in the coming weeks, months and years the soldiers and war correspondents were to pass this new sense of identity on to the Australian public which then developed into a fully blown national identity. A new common sense of national identity combined with a new and distinct culture is therefore why Gallipoli takes on so much more of a significant role in Australia than it does in New Zealand. Although the New Zealanders and Australians experience at Gallipoli forges a new sense of national identity, in Turkey what they term the Battle of Canakkale is a key moment for Turkish nationalism because it actually forms a new nation.
Historians such as Peter Weir agree that the single most important factor for the Turkish people that emerges from the Battle of Canakkale was a little known commander called Mustafa Kemal, who would go on to be known as Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (The Father of the modern Turkish nation). Certainly during and even before the First World War the old Ottoman Empire had been in decline from its former glory and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk would go on to be the catalyst of the revolution that overthrew that empire.
However, the Battle of Canakkale is not only significant in Turkish nationalism because it pushes Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to the forefront of Turkish leadership. The battle also reinvigorates the army and indeed the whole nation. As the historian Dankwart A. Rustow argues, the victory at the Battle of Canakkale enables the army to forget the disheartening and devastating military losses against some of the Baltic States and creates a new sense of identity.
This new common identity especially among the officers of the Turkish army who fought at the Battle of Canakkale is an identity which would be confident, courageous and most importantly determined. This becomes significant because most of these officers would go on to become important figures in the revolution that was to topple the Sultan that ruled the Ottoman Empire. This has profound consequences on the modern history of Turkey because the Battle of Canakkale becomes a defining moment in the development of Turkish nationalism.
Officers that took part in the Battle of Canakkale go on to orchestrate the revolution and were seen as heroes by the Turkish public. The battle was to become a point of national pride just as it had in New Zealand and Australia. Finally the Battle of Canakkale plays such a significant role in modern Turkish history because not only does it create a common sense of identity but also because Ataturk emerges from the campaign with the support of the army and the nation and is able to go and found modern Turkey.
Although military historians view the Gallipoli campaign as a complete failure for the Allies which did not have any major significant impact on the First World War unlike the battles on the Western Front. The campaign does have a significant impact for the development of New Zealand, Australian and Turkish nationalism. In New Zealand the Gallipoli campaign helps develop a new sense of nationalism, New Zealanders emerge on to the international stage after proving themselves in a bloody and disastrous yet fruitful campaign.
In Australia the Gallipoli campaign also helps in the development of a distinct Australian national point of pride. However, it becomes even more significant in Australia than it does in New Zealand because it actually helps forge a new and unique sense of national identity. Likewise in Turkey, the Battle of Canakkale becomes a point of pride and significance for the development of Turkish nationalism. Like the Australians, the battle plays a significant role because it helps form a new national identity.
However, the battle is arguably more important in Turkey than it is in New Zealand and Australia becomes it enables the creation of a new Turkish nation.