A letter by Brendan Jenkins / Gallipoli, 22.09.2014
His Excellency Ambassador Reha Keskintepe
Ambassador of Turkey
6 Moonah Place
Yarralumla, ACT 2600
Dear Ambassador Keskintepe,
I am writing to you as I have just received news that that my young cousin, David, will be a member of the Victorian delegation to the 100 anniversary of the ANZAC Gallipoli/Çanakkale battles next year.
I would like to thank you and the people of Turkey for your extraordinary generosity of spirit in welcoming thousands of my fellow Australians, not just on the occasion of the centenary, but every year to mark the battles which cost the lives of so many young men from our respective countries. It is an enduring gift of friendship and an honour accorded by the Turkish people to the Australian servicemen who fought and died on the peninsula. Your ongoing gesture of good will should not go unrecognised.
One can only begin to imagine the mixture of feelings which are experienced by the many Turkish people whose family members lay buried along with the British, ANZAC, French and Indian soldiers on the beaches, cliffs and gullies of your homeland. Like many other Australians, I am humbled that year after year the Muslim people of Turkey welcome the State ceremonies and Christian services over the graves of more than sixty thousand of your own sons and daughters as well as our fallen. This is the mark of a strong, confident and gracious people and you do your heroes proud by your selflessness. The respect accorded, not only to those young men who died 100 years ago, but to their countrymen and women who seek to remember their sacrifice each year exceeds that which could realistically be expected by those wishing to mark their participation in an invading force. I hope our genuine appreciation is apparent to you and your country people.
It may be that the actions of the Turkish people are the natural extension of the humanity enunciated by your leader, Atatürk, who first claimed our Gallipoli dead as your ‘sons as well’. For one hundred years you have demonstrated beyond any doubt that our ANZACS now lie ‘in the soil of a friendly country’. I would like to think that given a similar opportunity, Australians would demonstrate that same charity in recognition of the sacrifice of your nations’ sons and daughters.
My cousin will arrive on Çanakkale exactly 100 years after our Great Grandfather’s younger brother made that same journey. Chester Royal Jenkins joined the Mediterranean Expeditionary Forces on 12 April 1915. By the 27th of August the 20 year old miner’s son from Victoria had lost his life. Like 11,000 of his ANZAC comrades and 100,000 more from Turkey, Britain, India and France he now lies in an unmarked grave in the bosom of Turkey.
I thank you and the Turkish people for the care you have taken with his memory and the respect you have paid him and the 120,000 who have lain with him for these 100 years.