This message from Dr Jonathan King, author of Gallipoli: Our Last Man Standing and Gallipoli Diaries, should be compulsory reading for all Australians in the lead-up to the 25th April:
"With the Gallipoli centenary approaching, the nation should remember the words of our last Anzac Alec Campbell who pleaded on his death bed: 'For God's sake, don't glorify Gallipoli - it was a terrible fiasco, a total failure and best forgotten.'
"As his biographer, these last words from Campbell - the last surviving soldier from all nations fighting there, who only died 10 years ago - have been haunting me, as escalating commercial pressures threaten to turn the centenary into a Big Day Out. The prospect of a memorial service packed with excitable fans instead of mourners would have upset not only Campbell, but also the last 10 Anzacs I interviewed in the 1990s.
"Already, the Gallipoli 2015 Dawn Service is the place to be and it will be standing room only - for those who can get a ticket. At the moment, nobody can because the gate has been locked by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Turkish authorities. Worried by a possible stampede towards the little beach, they have created a ballot system restricting entry for this date with history. This ballot will allow 8000 lucky Australians along with 2000 New Zealanders to attend...
"As a tour leader who attended the 90th anniversary, when official presentations included pop music which inspired dancing and couples were seen canoodling near graves, I welcome this control. But what is needed - if punters are going to learn from historical mistakes - is an education campaign explaining that Australia lost and we are commemorating a bold endeavour and retreat with honour, not a glorious victory. After all, this is Australia's most famous and costly battle.
"Asked to locate Gallipoli, some recent straw poll respondents placed it off Queensland, France, England and even the US; others could not explain 'ANZAC' and thought Australia won. It is not their fault because censored war correspondent Charles Bean reported the failed invasion as a triumph, led by heroic bronzed sportsmen bravely scaling steep cliffs at great speed and driving the defending Turks inland. They were brave, but they still lost... The truth was not revealed until prime minister Andrew Fisher sent journalist Keith Murdoch in September 1915. When Murdoch told him the landing failed miserably, thousands were killed for little gain, an advance was impossible, hundreds were dying of disease and British leaders were incompetent, Fisher recommended retreat. 'Gallipoli is undoubtedly one of the most terrible chapters in our history,' Murdoch said. Nevertheless Bean's propaganda took hold. Winning the 1983 America's Cup, entrepreneur Alan Bond proclaimed: 'This is Australia's greatest victory since Gallipoli!'
"But Anzacs told a different story when I interviewed them for a documentary and book. In Sydney, Ted Matthews, a signaller at the landing, said: 'The British mucked the whole thing up. We landed on the wrong beach, the Turks knew we were coming, shot us to pieces and we never had a chance.' Infantryman Fred Kelly said: 'It was ridiculous. The beach was too narrow, the cliffs were too steep and exposed to enemy fire.' In Melbourne, military-Medal-winning sniper Jack Buntine said: 'We could never have won, the odds were too great.' Tunneller Roy Longmore said: 'We were badly equipped, not even prepared for winter - shocking leadership.' Water carrier Walter Parker said: 'Gallipoli achieved nothing. All those young Australians died in vain.' And Len Hall, who also fought at Beersheba, concluded: 'Next time I would fight for the Turks. They are good people and it was their land not ours.'
"Let's hope their words restrain the unbridled enthusiasm and put a brake on ballot winners glorifying 'one of the most terrible chapters in our history.' Leave any glorification to the Turks: they won and got a new nation out of it." (It's Anzac day - not the Big Day Out, Sydney Morning Herald, 20/4/13)