Watch this video and listen to this reading by Prince Charles given at the dawn service in tribute to the men who died in the Gallipoli campaign 100 years ago.
I happened to turn on the BBC news in time to watch this live and was very touched. Listening to the letter reminded me of the letter written by Sullivan Ballou during the Civil War.
Here's the text of the reading: "I suspect that many of those here today may be of my own generation,
born some thirty years after the end of the 1st World War and whose
grandfathers and great uncles may easily have fought or lost their lives
in this most bloody of campaigns. When I was young I remember talking
to the then Field Marshall Lord Slim about his recollections of the
battles in which he was ultimately badly wounded.
When the Anzacs
finally left this place, they were tormented by the thoughts of leaving
their comrades behind, that their suffering and loss would be
forgotten, that their graves lie untended.
Lieutenant Ken Millar of the Second Battalion wrote:
was the question of our dead mates… we lived at Gallipoli with our dead
alongside us. Owing to the lack of space our cemeteries were always
under our eyes. The hardest feature of the evacuation was in leaving
those dead comrades behind. They had bequeathed us a sacred trust… as
the party stole away from the line they took off their hats passing the
crosses, and old hard-bitten Anzacs wept silent tears.
They did indeed bequeath us a sacred trust – a trust we honour today.
Quartermaster Sergeant Benjamin Leane of the 10th Battalion was one of
six brothers, five of whom served in the First World War. He wrote his
diary in the form of letters to his wife. On the night before the
landing he wrote:
In case the worst happens and I am unable to
make any more entries I will take this opportunity to bid you goodbye
dear girl. I trust that I will come through alright, but it is
impossible to say and I must do my duty whatever it is. But if I am to
die, know that I died loving you with my whole heart and soul, dearest
wife that a man ever had. Kiss little Gwen and our new baby, who perhaps
I may never see, and never let them forget Daddy. And you, dear girl, I
would love to write you a long goodbye letter, but I must do my work
and there is no time. But I love you dearly, my own Phyllis, and I trust
that you will always love me. But remember, dear, that if I am killed, I
wish you to do absolutely as you think advisable for your future… One
little word for mother, dear. Bear with her and be good to her in her
few remaining years, for I know she loves me dearly. And tell her that I
am not afraid to die, nor am I afraid of what is to come after death.
Just tell her “I know in whom I have believed”. And now, dear, dear
sweet heart, goodbye, goodbye.
Benjamin Leane never held his new
baby. He survived Gallipoli and was promoted to Major only to die in
France in 1917. Here today, we remember his sacrifice, and that of all
those who served and suffered here in this far away place on the other
side of the world to the Antipodes."
Here's more on Benjamin Leane by his great-great-niece, Wendy Frew. He was one of five brothers who served at Gallipoli.