The Gallipoli and Dardanelles campaign of 1915-1916 was a British-led campaign for which the UK provided men from virtually every county in the land, including Ireland. Britain was supported by France and other countries of the then British Empire, such as Australia, New Zealand, India, and Newfoundland.
Numerous veterans’ associations were formed in the years following the First World War but surprisingly no national association existed to commemorate Gallipoli until 1969.
A number of veterans established an informal group, meeting from time to time to exchange shared memories and if possible to recall not only their own experiences but also those of the units in which they served. Very soon they had started their own association with a journal, The Gallipolian, which is still published three times a year and includes articles of historical, academic, and literary merit. It is regarded as exemplary in its class.
Inevitably, time took its toll of the original membership, but their descendants and many professional and enthusiastic amateur military historians began to swell the association’s membership, contributing to The Gallipolian a wealth of new aspects of that fascinating, inspirational, but ultimately tragic campaign.
In 1995, when it was clear that the remaining veterans deserved a fitting gesture in their lifetime, and that national tribute to those who had gone before them was long overdue, the association raised funds for a lasting memorial in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral. This was unveiled by their Patron HRH The Duke of Edinburgh in the presence of a great and distinguished congregation including what would be the last muster of the actual Gallipoli veterans.
Today the association works hard to achieve its charitable objectives: to advance education for the public benefit by raising public awareness of the Gallipoli Campaign of 1915, and by encouraging and facilitating the study in the legacy and lessons of that campaign, keeping alive the memory of the campaign and ensuring that all who fought or served in it, and those who gave their lives, are not forgotten.
Membership of the Association continues to grow and is worldwide. Strong links have been established with official and other interest groups concerned with the campaign, notably in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, France, and Turkey; countries that participated significantly in the naval and land operations. They also lead regular visits to the old battlefields where one can learn from the experts; each traveller experiencing a personal, informative, and quality tour.
In 2013 the Association formed their Gallipoli100 centenary group and a Gallipoli Centenary Education Project was created, jointly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and Association and individual benefactors. This education legacy is primarily aimed at the nation’s schoolchildren in line with outcomes sought by the Government. There are several UK and International strands including support to teachers. But the most visible will be the work taken forward with several schools with strong local links to the campaign. Wider local communities will be helped in their efforts through the provision of a network of expert advice and support as they prepare their remembrance.
Each year there are local services all across the country and it is important to build from this base with local partners such as the Royal British Legion to recognise the sacrifices made by particular towns and villages, many of which sent men to fight at Gallipoli. The Gallipoli Association has been working with the government to ensure that there will be a fitting UK-led National Commemoration at the Cenotaph in London on 25 April 2015.
Details of the Gallipoli Association and all their work can be found on their website www.gallipoli-association.org or by writing to Gallipoli Association (Box 630), Wey House, 15 Church Street, Weybridge, Surrey, KT13 8NA.
The Association is a Registered Charity No.1155609.