Church of England Diocese in Europe

Sermon at Helles Memorial Gallipoli for the Commonwealth and Ireland Service (24th April 2021)

Today we meet as friends from different countries to commemorate the bravery of those who fought and died on and around this peninsula in 1915. Military units from Great Britain and Ireland, France, Australia, New Zealand, India, and Newfoundland, took part on the Entente side, with South Africans among them, as they answered from far away the call of King and Country. Against them stood the soldiers and sailors of the Ottoman Empire, determined and courageous in the defence of their homeland. Today we honour them all. I have been asked to pass on blessings and greetings from Principal Chaplain Darren Jaensch, Director General Chaplaincy for the Australian Army, who in other circumstances would have been here this week-end, and Archbishop Michael Jackson, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, who appreciates the attention paid here to the Irish contribution to the campaign.

Commemoration on such occasions is rather like a mosaic. Each of us will have particular thoughts and memories of some who took part, whether it be of the Dubliners, Munsters and Hampshires landing on V beach below us or of the Newfoundlanders capturing Caribou Hill or of the solitary grave of Lieutenant Colonel Doughty-Wylie VC, a man decorated by the Ottoman government for humanitarian work in Turkey during the Balkan Wars, or of the four rugby internationals, two English and two Scottish, commemorated here. These little images come together to form a great mosaic of the whole endeavour. In many ways this memorial at Helles is a good focal point for our commemoration, as it is a Commonwealth memorial for the whole Gallipoli campaign as well as being a specific memorial to Commonwealth servicemen, 20,958 of them, who have no known grave. This number comprises all the British, Irish, and Indian servicemen who died in the campaign, including those lost at sea, and those Australians who died at Helles, the New Zealanders killed at Helles being commemorated at Twelve Tree Copse Memorial nearby. Here many of the stones of memory come together to form a mosaic.

This commemoration is particularly poignant, both for the variety of experience of those involved and for the ability we have to share it as friends. The reasons that drew men to fight here were various, ranging from the enthusiasm of officers educated in the classics who were fascinated in their turn to be fighting on the Plains of Troy (as reflected in the poem by Patrick Shaw-Stewart that we will hear read) to the lure of adventure and loyalty to the Crown which drew men from the far corners of the British Empire. Against them fought Turks in dogged defence of their country. Now on both sides the Empires have vanished and we meet as members of proudly independent nations, united in friendship and also by the memory of those far off days in which our young men fought and died here. In a world of uncertainty and anxiety it is good to remember both the bravery and self-sacrifice of those who fought here and the reconciliation between our nations that has followed the conflict.

Today we remember all those who fought and died here, in the words of Leon Gellert that we will hear read, those who "slept in great battalions by the shore". May these gallant heroes rest in peace. Bu cesur kahramanlari rahmetle aniyorum.

Many nations meet here in remembrance, but one of the most poignant sounds to be heard on the peninsula is the wonderful Maori hymn Whakaaria mai. This hymn has a great resonance in New Zealand and is a fitting reminder of the faith and fidelity which brought here warriors from "the uttermost ends of the earth". The hymn is sung to the tune "How great thou art" but actually forms the last verse of "Abide with me", the hymn that we will sing together at the end of the service. A literal translation into English is "Show your cross to me. Let it shine there in the darkness. To there I will be looking. In life, in death, let me rest in thee."

Whakaaria mai

Tou ripeka ki au

Tiaho mai

Ra roto i te po 

Hei kona au

Titiro atu ai.

Ora, mate,

Hei au koe noho ai.