Ataturk Memorial, Wellington

The First World War through place names. Ataturk Memorial, Wellington.

General Mustafa Kemal

The New Zealand Dawn Service, Le Quesnoy Communal Cemetery Extension 2015 - General Mustafa Kemal

The construction of the Ataturk Memorial resulted from a series of diplomatic negotiations. In 1984, the Australian and Turkish Governments began discussions over a mutual commemoration of their First World War dead. The Turkish authorities agreed to change the name of the site where Australian and New Zealand soldiers first landed during the 1915 Dardanelles Campaign from ‘Ari Burnu’ to Anzac Cove. For their part, the Australians would open a memorial to the Turkish defenders of Gallipoli in Canberra.

Dismayed at being excluded from these consultations, and pointing out that ‘ANZAC means as much to New Zealand as to Australia’, the New Zealand Government pressed for the scheme to be extended. It was subsequently resolved that another memorial to the Turkish dead would be built above Tarakena Bay on the south coast of Wellington, a site chosen for its striking likeness to the landscape of the Gallipoli Peninsula.

The Wellington memorial was unveiled on 25 April 1990. In addition to a marble crescent and soil from Anzac Cove, it features a bust of Mustafa Kemal. As commander of the Ottoman 19th Division, Kemal played a pivotal role in frustrating Allied efforts to seize the Dardanelles. His units helped contain the initial landings at Anzac Cove, before retaking the crucial height of Chunuk Bair during the August Offensive. Kemal would later become the first president of modern Turkey and in 1934 was granted the honorary surname Atatürk, or ‘Father of the Turks’.