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Turkey marks centenary of WWI naval victory in Dardanelles

March 18, 2015

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey on Wednesday held ceremonies marking the centenary of its WWI naval victory over the Allied forces in the battle of Gallipoli, honoring Ottoman soldiers who lost lives in the conflict which helped shape modern Turkey.

The ceremonies began with morning prayers at mosques around the country for the thousands of soldiers who died. The faithful were served soup and dried raisin compote to commemorate the meager rations those long-ago Turkish soldiers ate.

On March 18, 1915, the Ottoman army held off a naval attack in the Dardanelles Strait by British and French ships aiming to capture Istanbul and aid their ally, Russia. The Allies lost three battleships in the naval battle and withdrew. Later, on April 25, they launched landings on the Gallipoli peninsula, which started a nine-month battle which also resulted in a defeat for the Allies and cost thousands of lives.

Although an estimated 250,000 Ottoman soldiers were killed or wounded, Gallipoli was the Turks’ only victory in World War I and provided the self-confidence to go on to fight a four-year war of liberation that salvaged Turkey from the dismembered Ottoman empire. The battle also led to the emergence of war hero Mustafa Kemal Ataturk who established the Turkish republic.

“They (the martys) have sowed the seeds of the Turkish Republic under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk,” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said during the ceremonies at a stadium in Canakkale. “What they have entrusted us with is a holy legacy.”

A separate ceremony was also held at a memorial near the former battlefields. 

Next month, Britain’s Prince Charles and Prince Harry will join ceremonies at Canakkale to commemorate the centenary of the ill-fated landings on Gallipoli.

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