(Transcript from World News Radio)
Almost 8000 lucky Australians are preparing to head to the centenary ANZAC Day commemorations in Gallipoli next year.
They’ve been selected at random from a pool of more than 42,000 Australians who applied to attend the historic dawn service in Turkey.
Thea Cowie reports.
Ramazan Altintas is one of 7600 Australians preparing to head to Gallipoli next year.
He’s also one of only 215 overseas-born Australians selected to attend the service.
On the 25th of April 2015, he’ll watch the sun rise over Anzac Cove and pay tribute to the soldiers of his adopted country, killed there 100 years ago.
He’ll also remember the soldiers of his birth country, like his grandfather, who fought on the Turkish side of the historic battle.
Now the president of the Victoria Turkish RSL Sub-Branch, Mr Altintas he says he’s proud of the humility both his Australian and Turkish forebears showed in war.
“Turkish grandfather, Australian grandfather fighting each other, killing each other. But very honest together, respecting each other. From Australian side throw Turkey cigarettes and chocolate. And Turkish hand them water. Next start friendship in wartime.”
72-year-old Canberra resident Kevin Kirk is another lucky Australian selected to go to Gallipoli next year.
The retired wing commander is hoping to re-trace the footsteps of his father who served there as a Lewis gunner and survived.
Mr Kirk says he hopes the pilgrimage will help him piece together his father’s story.
“I’ve been able to find out about what he went through through books I’ve got. But he never spoke about it which is understandable because it was a quite traumatic experience. Probably the same with most people who have been on combat areas. It’ll be interesting to see the areas where my father served as well as attend the ANZAC Day.”
What Mr Kirk does know about his father is that he was sent to Gallipoli as a replacement after the disastrous Gallipoli landing of April 25th, 1915.
At dawn that fateful morning, four thousand Australian and New Zealand soldiers were sent ashore at what came to be known as ANZAC Cove.
Watching from the hills above was the Turkish 27th Regiment.
Many ANZACs were shot down before they reached the shore, and those who did make it faced steep hills and a rain of bullets.
Each of the 3800 Australians selected to go to Gallipoli next year can take a friend.
Mr Kirk says he’s taking his son, a third generation Australian fighter.
“I’m a veteran. I served in South East Asia, not in Vietnam but in northern Thailand with the Air Force. And my son’s currently in the Air Force and he spent some time in the Middle East with the P3 Aurions with the Air Force.”
Chairman of Friends of Gallipoli, Dr John Basarin, will be witnessing the Gallipoli Anzac Day Dawn service from the water, on a boat anchored off ANZAC Cove.
The Turkish-born migrant says he still clearly remembers his first visit to Gallipoli.
“I was probably about 10 years old and he said ‘son this is where Turkey was born’. Of course he was referring to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk who was the founder of the Republic of Turkey and when I migrated to Australia 40 years ago, little did I know that my adopted country would feel the same way about Gallipoli as the birthplace of the nation.”
Turkish people living on the Gallipoli Peninsula are well aware the 25th of April is important to the hordes of Australian and New Zealand tourists.
But Mr Basarin says the date means very little for most Turks.
“For the rest of Turkey it’ll be a news item in the newspapers on the television saying that ‘Australians and New Zealanders have arrived in their thousands to remember their grandparents and great uncles.’ That’ll probably be what it’ll amount to.”
Turks instead remember the 18th March 1915 as a great national victory, when Turkish gunners stopped Allied warships capturing the then capital of the Ottoman Empire, Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul).
Applicants for the Gallipoli ceremony ranged in age from 16-years to 99-years and 60-per cent of those chosen are male.
The Turkish government has capped attendance at 10,500 people, including 8000 Australians and 2000 New Zealanders.
Thousands of applicants who missed out on a place have been placed on a waitlist which will operate until the 31st of March next year.