Thousands of Australian and New Zealand forces who died during the First World War’s disastrous Gallipoli campaign have been commemorated on the centenary of the offensive.
Sunrise saw the first of a series of poignant and simple services, both at home and abroad, marking the start of the ill-fated campaign which began today in 1915.
The Queen led the nation in honouring the Anzac troops at a moving Cenotaph ceremony in London while the Prince of Wales was in Turkey with Prince Harry, close to the Gallipoli battle sites, to pay tribute with world leaders to all those who fought.
At a dawn service at London’s Wellington Arch, thousands of Australians and New Zealanders had gathered to pay their respects to relatives and past countrymen.
Sir Lockwood Smith, New Zealand’s high commissioner, told the congregation, including the Princess Royal, who had begun gathering well before sunrise: “We will always remember, be always inspired’’ by the Anzacs.
“One hundred years ago this very morning, the young soldiers of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzacs) began landing on a narrow beach on the Gallipoli Peninsula,’’ he said. “They were part of the Allied invasion of Turkey - the beach would become known as Anzac Cove, their sacrifice would become legend.”
The Queen was the first to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph in memory of the Anzac forces.
Prime Minister David Cameron followed laying his own floral tribute as did a number of senior ministers and George Brandis, Australia’s Attorney General, and David Carter MP, Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives.
The outdoor service was also attended by the Duke of Edinburgh, Duke of Cambridge, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Labour leader Ed Miliband, all the wives of the political leaders, and descendants of the troops who took part in the offensive.
The land campaign launched by Allied forces was designed to be a decisive blow aimed at knocking the Turks out of the war. But eight horror-filled months later, and at a cost to both sides of an estimated 145,000 lives, the Allies pulled out, having failed in their objective.
In the shadow of the Cenotaph those gathered listened as buglers from the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines sounded The Last Post a few moments after Big Ben tolled the last stroke of 11am.
The Queen and those around her stood motionless in quiet reflection as they observed two minutes’ silence as London traffic rumbled by in neighbouring streets. During the service, the famous verse from Laurence Binyon’s poem For The Fallen, which begins with the memorable line “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old’’, was read by 22-year-old Michael Toohey.
Mr Toohey’s great great uncle Private Thomas Toohey was serving with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers when he was killed in action during a Gallipoli landing at V Beach, Cape Helles on April 25 1915 aged 22.
More than half a million Commonwealth and Irish soldiers fought during the campaign 400,000 from Britain, 15,000 from Ireland and 140,000 drawn from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Sri Lanka and the Indian sub-continent.
Almost 36,000 Commonwealth servicemen are buried or commemorated on Gallipoli, including nearly 25,000 members of British and Irish forces, over 7,200 of Australians, more than 2,300 of New Zealand forces, and more than 1,500 members of the Indian Army.
Gallipoli was a defining moment in the history of Australia and New Zealand and helped to forge the nations’ identities and create the “Anzac spirit” of endurance, courage, ingenuity, good humour, and mateship.
The date the campaign began - April 25 - is commemorated every year as Anzac Day which has become a day when they remember all their forces who have served and died.
Gallipoli has become a place of pilgrimage for young Antipodeans who want to trace the footsteps of relatives.
In Turkey Charles and Harry joined more than 10,000 people in a dawn pilgrimage to mark the anniversary. The Australians and New Zealanders in the crowd had sat huddled together overnight to be close to the special site on the Turkish peninsula where the Anzac troops launched an amphibious attack at first light.
Australia’s prime minister Tony Abbott and New Zealand premier John Key were at the ceremony near Anzac Cove. Other dignitaries included Irish president Michael Higgins.
Prime ministers Key and Abbott made speeches about the Anzac spirit and the Prince of Wales gave a moving reading about troops weeping as they left their dead comrades behind when they left Gallipoli.
The prince read the thought of a soldier who wrote: “The hardest feature of the evacuation was in leaving those dead comrades behind. They had bequeathed us a sacred trust ... as the party stole away from the line they took off their hats passing the crosses and old hard-bitten Anzacs wept silent tears.”
The Queen and Philip later attended a Westminster Abbey service of commemoration and thanksgiving marking the centenary.
The Very Reverend Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster, said in his bidding: “Alongside forces from Britain and her allies, troops from Australia and New Zealand fought together as the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps: ANZAC.
“We honour today the courage of the men at Gallipoli. The memory of the Great War provides for us warning and encouragement. In a symbolic moment during the service the national flags of Australia, New Zealand, Turkey and the UK were carried through the church and placed close to the high altar as a sign of reconciliation between old enemies.”
The High Commissioners of Australia and New Zealand, Alexander Downer and Sir Lockwood Smith respectively, gave readings from the Bible.
Turkey’s Ambassador Abdurrahman Bilgic read the famous message from Ataturk, his nation’s founding father, to bereaved pilgrims who visit the Gallipoli battle sites. He said: “Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives ... You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours ... “.