Thousands gather at dawn ceremony to mark Gallipoli centenary

Sat Apr 25, 2015 3:26pm EDT
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By Dasha Afanasieva

GALLIPOLI PENINSULA, Turkey (Reuters) - Leaders and dignitaries from Australia, New Zealand and Turkey led thousands at dawn ceremonies on Turkey's Gallipoli peninsula on Saturday to mark the 100th anniversary of a World War One battle that helped shape their nations.

The Gallipoli campaign has resonated through generations that have mourned the thousands of soldiers from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) cut down by machinegun and artillery fire as they struggled ashore on a narrow beach.

By the time allied forces withdrew, defeated, after eight months, the fighting would eventually claim more than 130,000 lives, 87,000 of them on the side of the Ottoman Turks, who were allied with imperial Germany.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and Britain's Prince Charles laid wreaths as bagpipes played at Anzac Cove, just north of where ANZAC soldiers first landed, in front of more than 10,000 people.

Abbott told the crowd, many of whom spent a cold night in their sleeping bags to secure a place at the grounds, of lives lost in a campaign that helped forge Australia's identity.

"Like every generation since, we are here on Gallipoli, because we believe that the ANZACs represented Australians at our best," he said. "It’s the perseverance of those who scaled the cliffs under a rain of fire. It’s the compassion of the nurses who attended to the thousands of wounded."

TURKISH PRIDE   Continued...

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott (L) pauses after laying a wreath during a dawn service at the ANZAC Commemorative Site in ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli, Turkey, in this April 25, 2015 handout courtesy of the Office of the Prime Minister.REUTERS/Brad Hunter/Office of the Prime Minister/Handout via Reuters