Turkey: 10,000 commemorate Anzac Day on Gallipoli centenary
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HMS Majestic was sunk in a WW1 battle in 1915 when it was hit by a German U-Boat torpedo off Cape Helles. The battle was part of the Dardanelles Campaigns and 49 men lost their lives in the fatal attack.
The Gallipoli peninsula is known as the ‘graveyard of navies’ with shipwrecks from battles dating back to ancient times.
Now Turkey wants to make the site a major international tourist attraction and one of the world’s biggest open air museums.
The underwater museum is scheduled to open in 2023 and visitors will be able to dive to look at the historic wrecks.
Until recently, only researchers with special Government permits were allowed to dive to the site.
British Royal Navy HMS Majestic will be one of the first ships divers will be able to explore as part of the museum.
The ship is largely intact and rests 80ft underwater. An estimated 25,000 Britons lost their lives in the battle against the Ottoman and German armies.
Savas Karakas, a diver and documentary maker, was one of the first to visit the site since it opened to the public earlier this month.
He said: “It’s like a time machine that takes you back to 1915 and World War I.”
Another visitor, Ethem Keskin, said: “It’s a good opportunity for us to remember our past. I thought about the moment they sank and you feel the stress of war.”
Other famous global battle sites are already open to divers, including Chuuk Lagoon in Papua New Guinea where visitors can see World War two wrecks.
At Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands divers can see the impact of US nuclear testing completed in the 1940s and 50s.
Karakas said: “Now Gallipoli is becoming an alternative. This is history and each shipwreck is like a medal on our chest.”
On April 25 1915, Allied troops began the campaign to take the Dardanelles from the Ottoman Empire.
Allied troops of France, Britain, Australia and New Zealand fought against the German and Ottoman troops.
The Allies planned to secure a supply route to Russia and take Constantinople (Istanbul), the capital of the Ottoman Empire.
After brutal warfare that lasted for nine months, the Allied troops gave up the campaign. The Ottoman troops suffered the heaviest loss, at 86,000 troops.
April 25 is still commemorated annually in Australia and New Zealand as Anzac Day to remember those that died from both nations.
Karakas’s own grandfather was wounded in the Gallipoli campaign so his dive had a personal significance for him.
He said: “His hand was burnt and I was very scared when I was a child. Each time he was trying to touch me, I was looking at his hand and feeling a little bit weird.
“When I dive, I remember this hand. The rusted steel feels like the hand burnt by shells from those ships, so it’s like holding my grandfather’s hand.”
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