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Australians Commemorate Battle of Gallipoli - 2002-04-25


Australians turned out Thursday to commemorate Anzac Day, which marks the start of the World War I battle of Gallipoli in 1915, a campaign that cost tens-of-thousands of lives. Ceremonies were also held at Gallipoli on Turkey's Aegean coastline, where allied forces landed in an attempt to gain control of the Dardanelles and the Bosporus straits. The campaign was unsuccessful, but for many Australians, the conflict forged the fledgling nation's identity.

Dawn services across Australia have marked the start of Anzac Day. Many historians believe that, at Gallipoli in 1915, the former British colony finally achieved nationhood. Much of the literature devoted to the campaign says it was a defining moment in history. "At Gallipoli, men from all backgrounds created the essence of what it means to be Australian," wrote one observer, "courage under fire, grace under pressure and giving help to a mate."

The Anzacs were the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. Their heroism is marked in both countries with a series of parades by ex-servicemen and women. In Sydney, more than 20,000 marchers were watched by an estimated quarter of a million people. The day is a public holiday here, and many of the events are broadcast live on national radio and television.

Ceremonies took place around the world, from Turkey to other theaters of war in the Pacific, Thailand and even Rwanda. They took on a special significance in Australia this year, as the country is involved in another military conflict, the U.S.-led war on terror in Afghanistan.

Speaking in Sydney, army Chaplain Roger Rumsford says it's a time to think of those engaged in a new conflict against evil.

"Since September 11 last year, in a sense, the carnival has been over, as we have had to grapple with the realities of terrorism."

With only 17 World War I veterans still alive in Australia, including a solitary survivor from Gallipoli, there is a concern that the country's enthusiasm for this day of remembrance will wane as their numbers decline.

The parades also attract veterans from other conflicts, from World War I to the Vietnam and Korea. Australian peacekeepers who have served in Bougainville in Papua New Guinea and East Timor have also participated.

Marching through Sydney, one old veteran said Australians must never forget the sacrifices made for them. "Military service is a debt that can never be repaid," he said.

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