Just back from a trip to Gallipoli and the WWI Western Front battlefields.
It was a wonderfully enriching experience, made all the more memorable by the superb work of the staff of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission throughout France and Belgium.
Without exception, every cemetery or memorial we visited was immaculate. At most venues maintenance work was underway while we visited, a never-ending tribute to the fallen whose sacrifices live on in the legacy of freedom enjoyed by those who visit and those who live there.
Similarly in Turkey. I hold a profound respect and gratitude for the Turkish nation’s dedication of the Gallipoli memorial park and for the gracious way they allow visitors to pay their respects there. How many nations have set aside tracts of their land as memorials to the soldiers who tried to invade and conquer them?
The Gallipoli campaign represented a magnificent victory for the Turks and it opened the way for the nation to emerge from the Ottoman Empire to become a modern republic. But the Turks also recognize the importance of the campaign to the fledgling nations of Australia and New Zealand in particular and their continuing generosity welcomes those from Down Under as they come to pay their respects.
I was particularly proud to see the beautiful new Pheasant Wood Cemetery for the first time. It honours the Missing Soldiers from the Battle of Fromelles on a prime piece of the town’s land, dedicated by the people of Fromelles. It stands as a tribute to the sacrifices of the fallen and to the persistence of those who fought to ensure the missing were not forgotten but were recovered and buried with dignity.