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100 years after Gallipoli

The story of two commanders on the front line

100 years after the Gallipoli Campaign,
remembered in Turkey as the Battle of Çanakkale,
the families of two men who fought fiercely
against each other on April 25 1915,
reflect on their grandfathers' legacies.

                                                                                                 Story by Ismail Kayhan. Copyright Special Broadcasting Service. SBS

Gallipoli Peninsula. April 25, 1915.

Anzac troops are on the beaches. Casualties are already high.

Captain Charles Leer and his men land at Anzac Cove.

Facing the Anzac advance, Turkish Captain, Halis Bey, orders his men to secure Mortar Ridge, a rocky outcrop above Anzac Cove.

The Anzacs are also eager to gain higher ground at Mortar Ridge.

Charles Leer’s C Company and Halis Bey's 3rd Battalion
are on a collision course.
The story of Halis Bey, the Turkish Commander

"Gallipoli: a tale of two soldiers" radio feature, by SBS broadcaster, Ismail Kayhan

Captain Halis Bey was an experienced commander in the Ottoman Turkish Army and a celebrated veteran of the Libyan and Balkan wars.

Under his command, the 3rd Battalion was one of the first to engage ANZAC troops. Halis was wounded early in the battle on April 25th, but refused medical evacuation.

Footage from TRT (Turkish Radio and Television Corporation)

The diaries of 20 year-old Second Lieutenant, Mucip Kemalyeri of the Ottoman Army, offer stark descriptions of what unfolded that day.

"There were two companies closest. I was very excited. My heart was pumping. At that moment my trumpeter couldn't cope with the excitement and suddenly aimed his rifle at them. I grabbed the barrel and stopped him from firing. With this move I saved a person that he could easily have killed. I had a more brutal surprise in store for them", said Mucip in his diary.

Mucip had been put in command and ordered to a ridge that the Australians knew as "Mortar Ridge" after his commanding officer Halis Bey had been shot in the arm in Anzac cove.

"I saw that the khaki fabric of his left sleeve was red and blood was dripping from his fingers. 'You are injured' I said. 'Not now. It happened on the way here' he said. I shouted once to call the medics but he stopped me: 'The soldiers mustn't know I am injured'."

Halis remained in Gallipoli until after the Anzacs were evacuated and became a colonel and commander of the 27th regiment. He retired in 1925, after the Turkish War of Independence.

He went on to become a civil engineer and built the first cement road in Turkey.

Although he spent much of his life on the front lines, he spoke four languages apart from his native Turkish. He wrote extensively, painted, and drew maps. He translated “The Paris Commune” into Turkish and was working on the translation of Herodotus when he died of pneumonia in 1933.

Halis Bey's grandson, Serdar Ataksor, is a retired teacher living in Istanbul.

Over the years, his family has published Halis Bey’s writings and built a library in his name.

There is a dedicated Halis Bey memorial forest on the Gallipoli Peninsula.

Serdar Ataksor in Canakkale memorial in Turkey
Serdar Ataksor, Captain Halis Bey's grandson,
speaking with SBS Radio Turkish reporter, Ismail Kayhan
The story of Captain Charles Leer,
the Australian Commander

Captain Charles Leer was a veteran of the Boer war – and re-enlisted in 1914.

He was working as a teacher at NSW Watsons Bay Public School in Sydney.

At 42 years of age, he would have been considered too old to enlist, but the age requirement was relaxed as he was a seasoned veteran and a military instructor.

Historians John Gillam and Yvonne Fletcher have researched Captain Charles Leer’s life extensively.

Fletcher says Leer and his wife's story was remarkable.

"Charles met his future wife Rosabella Searson while teaching at Rockdale School in Sydney. The couple met again a few years later and married in 1899. That same year, their daughter Zillah was born at Raymond Terrace. At that time, Charles was the school teacher at Williamtown Public School. Remarkably, when he embarked for the Boer War his wife and baby child also made the journey and lived near the fighting in order to be near him."

Gallipoli was different. Leer had no family close to him. In fact, his wife Rosabella died just two weeks before his departure to Gallipolli, and his mother, one week after that. Their daughter Zillah was left to a guardians care.

On her death bed, Rosabella predicted Charles's death from a bullet and that they would soon be reunited in the hereafter, as historian Yvonne Fletcher explains.

While in command Charles Leer was described as having displayed the utmost disregard for his own safety, and completely calm in battle. Before arriving to the battle front on Mortar Ridge, Charles Leer had already lost many men.

Survivors from his team saw him die in the final fierce fighting against the Ottoman forces on the 25th of April.

That night Australian Company Quarter-Master-Sergeant, Dargin, went out alone in search of Captain Leer's body– but never returned.

Two days later Private Aubrey Farmer made another attempt to find Leer’s body - He, too, was never heard of again.

At the Watsons Bay school where Leer had taught, a memorial to the Captain was erected the following year with a dedication ceremony.

The Vaucluse Public School which amalgamated with the Watsons Bay school in the 1920s, still awards a prize each year in memory of Charles Leer.

In Susan Bures’ book, “Vaucluse Public School The First 125 Years 1858 – 1983” one of Captain Leer’s students, Madge Chaffer, remembers him:

"Everyone dug a huge pond. I think it was Mr. Leer's idea, filled with water from the runoff and in the middle was an island shaped like Australia. We would jump from the bank to the island where the capital cities were marked so you could jump on Sydney or Adelaide. As the summer wore on the water filled with frogs and tadpoles."

Charles Leer is also remembered on memorials in many of the communities in which he served, either as a soldier or a teacher.

Back in Australia, Captain Leer's daughter was informed that her father had been killed in Gallipoli.
As she had lost both her parents and her grandmother within months of each other – her story was reported in newspapers at the time.

(Documents belong to the National Archives of Australia)

Captain Charles Leer's documents.

National Archives of Australia.

Captain Charles Leer's documents.
National Archives of Australia.

Tribute to the Anzacs killed at Gallipoli

"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 now here in this country of ours... you, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well".

First President of Turkey and Çanakkale War veteran,
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, in 1934.

Both families would like to meet each other

Captain Halis’ grandson Serdar Ataksor has traveled to Gallipoli ceremonies over the years – but has never managed to speak with a decedent of a Gallipoli veteran. He says he would like to meet with Charles Leer’s family.
Serdar Ataksor, Captain Halis Bey's grandson (Turkey) (voice over)

Phillip Perram, Grandson of Charles Leer, is proud that his Grandfather’s name is listed in honour on the Lone Pine Memorial and at the Australian War Memorial. He believes Gallipoli changed the lives of both Leer and Halis’ families.
Phillip Perram, Captain Charles Leer's grandson (Australia)

The ballad of Çanakkale is a Turkish folk song which tells about Battle of Gallipoli

The war came down on us like a fire,
The whole country shed tears.
At the Aynalı Çarşı -the marketplace-
I'm leaving for the enemy, Mother,
And there goes my boyhood.
The cypress tree grows tall on Çanakkale.
Some of us were married, some of us were engaged.
And there goes my boyhood.
They've shot me in Çanakkale,
Put me in a grave.
I wasn't dead.
And there goes my boyhood.

Title: Canakkale Türküsü, arranged Ahmet Adnan Saygun
Artist: Australian Chamber Choir, directed by Douglas Lawrence
Recorded live in concert on Sunday 22 March 2015 by Martin Wright of Move Records.

Gelibolu - Edirne Sırtı’nda savaşan iki yüzbaşı ve 100 yıl sonra tanışan torunları

Avustralyalı Yüzbaşı Charles Edward Leer ve Türk Yüzbaşı Halis Bey’in kuvvetleri, 25 Nisan 1915 sabahı, yani tam 100 yıl önce, Anzak Koyu’nda sahilden biraz içerde, Edirne Sırtı’nda karşı karşıya geldi. Bu iki komutan ve askerleri o gün Edirne Sırtı’nda gün boyu savaştı.

Yüzbaşı Leer, saat 15.00’de aldığı kurşun yaralarıyla orada hayatını kaybetti. Leer’in kuvvetleri Edirne Sırtı’ndan, denize doğru arkadaki tepeye çekildi. ANZAK bölüğünden iki asker, Leer’in cesedini bulmak için iki gün arayla gece karanlığında, ayrı ayrı Edirne Sırtı’na gitti.

İkisi de bir daha geri dönmedi.

Yüzbaşı Halis’e, sonuncusu sabah 10.00’da, Edirne Sırtı’nın alt ucunda olmak üzere o gün toplam üç kurşun isabet etti. Halis Bey, günün ilerleyen saatlerinde kan kaybından halsiz düşene kadar cepheyi terk etmedi.

Bu belgeselde, Leer ve Halis’le birlikte Edirne Sırtı’nda çarpışan Teğmen Orlando Cowey ve Teğmen Mucip Kemalyeri’nin kaleme aldıkları, o gün karşılıklı iki siperde neler olduğunu anlatan hatıraları yer alıyor.

Belgeselde, Avustralyalı ve Türk bu iki askerin cephedeki öyküsü, kim oldukları, bugün Avustralya’da ve Türkiye’de nasıl anıldıkları da anlatılıyor.

100 yıl önce birbiriyle amansız bir savaşa giren Halis Bey ve Charles Leer’in torunları, bu belgesel çalışmasıyla birbirini tanıyor ve duygularını paylaşıyor. Dedelerinin karşısındaki düşmanın kim, nasıl biri olduğunu öğreniyor.

Halis Bey’in torunu Serdar Ataksor ve Charles Leer’in torunu Phillip Perram, bir gün Edirne Sırtı’nda bir araya gelip kucaklaşacakları ve birbirlerine dedelerini anlatacakları günü bekliyor...

Bu belgeselin türkçe daha uzun bir versiyonunu radyo programı olarak adresindeki internet sitemizde podcast olarak dinleyebilirsiniz.

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A longer version of this documentary is available on the SBS TurkishRadio program page

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Research and production

Ismail Kayhan worked as a journalist in Turkey’s national print media for 12 years, before migrating to Australia in 1996.

In 2002 he joined SBS Turkish Radio.

Thanks to

Ataksor family (Turkey) and Perram family (Australia)

Australian War Memorial – ACT for guidance and information

Yvonne Fletcher and John Gillam – NSW for sharing with us their research on Captain Leer

Australian Chamber Choir – VIC for Canakkale song

Woollahra Municipal Council – NSW for information related to Charles Leer

Vaucluse Public School – NSW for information about Charles Leer and awards in his name

All Souls Church – (Leichardt) NSW for information and pictures stained glass windows dedicated to the Leer family.

TRT (Turkish Radio Television Corporation) for providing historic Gallipoli footage

Tamer Canikoğlu – ACT for pictures

Kamra Interactive – Ankara for animation

Gökhan T. Karaman – Çanakkale for graphic identification of Mortar Ridge

Qazim Menxhigi, Levent Ete, Andrew Bolton,Margarita Vasileva for voice overs

SBS Resource Centres (Melbourne – Sydney) audio effects

Hande Ergen and Sani Kajtazi (coordinating and filming Skype interviews)

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Gallipoli 100 Years

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