21 September is the International Day of Peace, which pays tribute to those who strive for peace around the world – even in the midst of conflict. The most famous instance of this in the First World War was the Christmas Truce of 1914, where men from opposing nations met in no man’s land during a cease fire. This blog post is about a less well-known truce in Gallipoli in 1915.
- Gallipoli 1915
At dawn on 25 April 1915, Allied troops landed on the Gallipoli peninsula in Ottoman Turkey. The aim was to allow Allied ships to pass through the Dardanelles, capture Constantinople (now Istanbul) and ultimately knock Ottoman Turkey out of the war. However, the casualties mounted quickly due to the fierce fighting and harsh conditions, and so on 24 May 1915 a truce was called to bury the dead. Parties from both sides helped to retrieve bodies from the battlefield and bury them, in the knowledge that they could do so without facing gunfire. William Alfred Cross was one of the men who took part in this cease fire.
While engaged burying the dead I came in contact with a number of Turks … I found them decent fellows.
William was born in Christchurch, New Zealand in 1875. He was a clerk in holy orders and lived in New South Wales, Australia with his wife and two children. He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in September 1914, and joined 13 Battalion of 4 Brigade who served in Gallipoli.
William became the first clergyman in the Australian Imperial Force to win a Distinguished Conduct Medal, and reached the rank of Sergeant. He was eventually discharged because of ill health, but before this was present at the May 1915 truce, where he conducted burial services:
“While engaged burying the dead I came in contact with a number of Turks … I found them decent fellows. We exchanged cigarettes and they lit ours … while we were engaged in a funeral service the Turks refrained from shooting in that direction.”
This 9 hour truce was the only one to occur during the entire Gallipoli campaign – a brief period of peace in the midst of the First World War.
- Remember William on his Life Story page