A hillside at Gallipoli with dozens of dugouts, many covered with canvas. The hillside has been terraced to create level ground (Photo: courtesy of Wairarapa Archive 14-50/4; WW100 New Zealand)

Centenary Anniversary: Gallipoli truce to bury the dead

Date of Anniversary: 24 May 2015
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A brief truce took place in the fighting between British-led Anzac forces and Turkish troops at Gallipoli on May 24th 1915.

Much less well known than the Christmas truce on the Western Front, this ceasefire was motivated by an urgent need to bury the dead from an Ottoman assault on the Australian and New Zealand defences.

Several thousand Turkish soldiers were killed in the attempt to recapture the Anzac Cove beachhead, their bodies left lying in the narrow 'no-man's land' between the opposing trenches.

Much of the fighting on the Gaba Tepe perimeter took place at close quarters, with the front lines just metres apart in places.

Faced with warnings of disease, there was a tentative halt in the violence on May 20th followed by a more formal ceasefire four days later to allow both sides to bury their dead and recover the wounded.

The agreement was reached at talks between the Allied and Turkish commanders on the ground, the negotiations taking place with envoys who were led blindfolded through the lines.

Burial parties moved onto the battlefield after the start of the truce at 7.30am on May 24th, working alongside each other to complete their task before the shooting resumed nine hours later.

In his book Gallipoli, the Australian-born journalist, Alan Moorehead notes: "Much the most important result of the  battle and the truce, however, was that from this time onwards all real rancour against the Turks died out in the Anzac ranks. They now knew the enemy from their own experience, and he had ceased to be a propaganda figure."

Sources: The Australian War Memorial; New Zealand History; Gallipoli - Alan Moorehead (republished by Aurum Press April 2015); Wikipedia

Images courtesy of Wairarapa Archive 14-50/4; WW100 New Zealand

Posted by: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News

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