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Turkey digging in at Gallipoli... again


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#26 John Gilinsky

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Posted 28 October 2008 - 04:53 AM

Bill: Thanks for this thread. Food for thought though: imagine in the nearish future when battlefields of World War I will be tampered with, altered or destroyed and no one will even know this!
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#27 Dogan Sahin

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Posted 28 October 2008 - 05:53 AM

Bill Thanks for bringing this to our attention.
Although it is evident that there needs to be ample parking space for visitors, I think all concerned should work hand in hand to find an acceptable solution and care is taken when construction activities are a must (floods, wind damage, natural events, roadside filling, other repairs etc.). After all, we must take the French experience as an example. I believe many of French battlefields, remains are buried under concrete in France and many other countries that I am not in knowledge of.
One thing in the effort to let the Turkish authorities know of frustration that may be felt by some could be to write letters in Turkish. I am sure they are not going to fall into pieces to have every email message translated smile.gif
regards

#28 Ice tiger

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Posted 28 October 2008 - 10:35 AM

Incensed as I may be, this does not surprise me!

A friend of my wife has a Turkish husband who was well educated in Turkey, came to an English university and stayed here.

On speaking to him about the great war he made it quite clear that this is not taught in Turkish history lessons and he had almost no knowledge of Gallipoli, although he was aware of the place name but was unable to recall why.

Letter to the ambassador sent today & I will be asking my Turkish friend to do the same

Andy


#29 Thales

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Posted 28 October 2008 - 10:52 AM

Sorry to keep banging on about Amnesty, but they do have very considerable experience of letter writing campaigns. With respect to Dogan Sahin, their advice is that unless you are totally proficient in the language of the country concerned, you should write your letters in English. I presume the thinking is that mistranslation runs the risk of making the writer appear naive or comical and thus devalues the strength of the point being made.

Turkish Ambassadors and their staff in most western capitals could be expected to be fluent in English and it would be surprising if this were not also the case with key staff at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ankara.

The alternative would be to have a blueprint letter which Dogan might translate into Turkish and which we all might copy and send. However, the downside of this is that the authorities would see that the texts of every letter were identical and thus be able to question whether the reaction was truly spontaneous or the work of an organised pressure group.

I am concerned that nothing should stop anyone who feels strongly on this subject from writing right now.

Finally I hope Bill gains some comfort from knowing that his situation is known to many people round the world and that we shall continue to take a keen interest in his wellbeing.

John

#30 Neil Mackenzie

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Posted 28 October 2008 - 07:13 PM

Bill.

Thanks for highlighting this - I can understand why you are upset,

There has to be a compromise between the needs of modern society and respect for the past - such as at Boesinghe in Ieper. Whilst in that instance they may not have done everything perfectly (who does?) at least they have made an effort and we respect them accordingly for their consideration to our past generations.

I think we all understand that the Gallipoli area probably needs modernising to cope with the demands of increased traffic and the number of visitors but it has to be combined with regard for the bones of men they might find in the process (whatever their nationality)! Without them no one would be going there in the first place!

Neil

#31 irishmen1916

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Posted 28 October 2008 - 08:38 PM

Hi Bill,
Thanks for bringing all of this to our attention, I am completely gobsmacked that this is still going on, and Turkey cant understand why it has problems being welcomed into the EC ? Could this be the kind of thing that might add to all the others ?For all the Irish pals out there please see the contact details for the Turkish Embassy in Ireland. As has been said in past posts. please keep the letters/ emails nice and to the point.

The Embassy of Republic of Turkey
11 Clyde Road
Ballsbridge
Dublin 4
Tel: 01-6685240/6601623
Fax: 01-6685014
Email : turkembassy@eircom.net

Peter

#32 Ozzie

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Posted 29 October 2008 - 10:35 AM

Take the politicians out and it would be a no brainer.
While we were at Gallipoli, the Turkish people we had the pleasure and honour of meeting, understood and respected our reasons for visiting. They could not have been more helpful or respectful. These were everyday Turkish people.

It seems if a human bone is found, then the fear of red tape means that the contractors try and remove the evidence.
Money is after all money, and bones hold up payment.

What really annoys me, are the government people of nations, that say, We are looking into it, while at the same time doing nothing.
The same excuses are trotted out over and over again.
They try and find a scapegoat, deny physical evidence and hope that it will all go away.

By doing this they show disrespect to their forefathers who fought at Gallipoli, and those who fought there, and who developed a respect for each other.

The words of Attaturk seem to have faded from the conscience of the politicians of both sides.
At least those who have an interest in Gallipoli, remember the respect between, and the stories of the Anzacs and the Turks.

If Turkey wants to go ahead, as it claims it wishes to do so, it must see that suppression of the voice of the people will not endear it to the European community, and wileful disregard of war dead is not looked upon favourably. They should turn their eyes towards the example set by Belgium and France, where all dead, of all nations are treated with respect.



Regards
Kim

#33 Ozzie

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Posted 29 October 2008 - 10:54 AM

Simon has posted The 1923 Treaty of Lausanne here
http://1914-1918.inv...=0#entry1036660

There are some articles within that clearly set out the protocals for the remains of soldiers at Gallipoli.

Ta Simon.

Kim

#34 bluedog

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Posted 29 October 2008 - 10:56 AM

Kim

My feelings exactly ,like you , on my many visits to the Peninsula I have found
nothing but friendship and a willingness to help , be it directions ,offers of transport
and a genuine respect for my reason of being there.

The higher powers should read and absorb those wonderful words written by ATATURK
in 1934.

Peter

#35 mabel

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Posted 29 October 2008 - 11:29 AM

I am absolutely horrified at the news above.

"Turkish authorities say the roadworks are necessary to cater to the hordes of tourists visiting the Gallipoli peninsula each year "

This seems to imply that tourists are the problem. Could it also provide a point to argue ie remind the Turkish government that these hordes might just not come any more to these sites or, indeed, to Turkey at all because of their actions and, thus, affect their 'tourist' bank balance? (As well as writing to the various embassies etc, of course.)

Mabel

#36 Ozzie

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Posted 29 October 2008 - 12:15 PM

Mabel, good point.
It is not only the hordes of tourists, but the manner in which the infrastructure to receive these hordes of tourists, is "gone about".
As Eceabat Bill has noted, the roadworks have been done in such a way, as to make the roads actually a safety hazard, re: raised shoulders.
Call me simple, but, having walked the Gallipoli battlefields, (read sweating and gasping through scrub and cliff, led by the one and only, inexhaustible, Kenan), I would say that if one was truly wanting to experience and pay homage to those of all who died at Gallipoli, then one should walk the battlefields. (We did have the luxury of having a mini bus drop us off and pick us up at certain points, read MINI bus.) But the hard yards were done on foot.
With regard to Anzac and Suvla, the buses should be stopped at Beach Cemetery. That would can a lot of the traffic. But, the Turkish people are coming late to their history, and large bus loads and many cars arrive in August for the Attaturk memorials.
We witnessed this. The hawkers, the rubbish, the .....
As well, I might add a fleeting visit by the Australian Basketball team.
Drive up to a notable point, get the lecture and drive off.
Surely, if one was to appreciate Gallipoli, and the suffering and perseverance of the men who fought, suffered and died there, one should walk the place?
To paraphrase a famous personage, "Let them ride donkeys."

If going to Gallipoli meant that I would have to use shank's pony, or to straddle a mule, then I would gratefully do so, if it meant that those who lay beneath the shifting gravel and thorny bushes, remained in situ, undisturbed, whatever their nationality or religion.

Some say "Get over it, they are dead and gone" but they say it without the realization that it is history that begets the future, and the torch that was thrown so high by those first Anzacs, has been carried on through the decades to the next generations, who have left the shores of Australia and New Zealand, to fight battles that were of others creation, but those Anzacs carried the torch with the spirit of those who fought at Gallipoli. That spirit is ingrained in the Australian and New Zealand conscious, whether it be myth, legend, or fact, and that spirit has seen Anzacs through the worst of hell on earth, and has won the respect of those they fought for, and against.

It is a shame that the words of Ataturk have been forgottten by the politicans.

"Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives…
You are now living in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours…
You, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace, after having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well."
Ataturk, 1934


One would hope that the Johnies and the Mehmets are allowed to lay in peace, not be torn asunder from their resting places, because the tourist dollar is greater than their sacrifice.

Kim




#37 Eceabat

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Posted 29 October 2008 - 02:15 PM

Hi all,

sorry for not being able to take much part in the subsequent discussions after first raising this issue, things have been a bit busy here.

Mabel, it would make no difference if all foreign visitors to the battlefields stopped coming. The 40,000 or so who do come to the peninsula every year represent only a fraction of the numbers who make the pilgrimage. According to Turkish officials, last year more than two million Turks visited the peninsula. If is for them that much of the construction work is being carried out, especially in the southern or Cape Helles sector.

There has been a fair degree of criticism of this issue being raised and the reaction it has provoked. Tony Wright, author of the book Turn Right At Istanbul – a walk on the Gallipoli Peninsula, wrote in The Age on Wednesday: "Much of the reaction in Australia to the story of the roadworks is at best ill-thought-out and at worst an insult to the Turkish authorities".

Turkey's ambassador to Canberra has also described my criticism of Turkish officials of not showing due care as being "offensive" and "ridiculous".

Let's look at a couple of facts. The same day the ambassador denied there was any road work being carried out, citing as his source for this information the governor of the province of Canakkale, that said same official had been quoted in an article in a national daily as saying work was being conducted on the four kilometre long road up to Chunuk Bair.

Turkish officials have also said that, due to the contractor who had laid the new asphalt on the Second Ridge road raising the level of the road to an excessive level, remedial work was required. I am not sure how clearing a wide swathe of the undergrowth and digging ditches up to one metre deep at the side of the road helps rectify the problem of having too much asphalt, but there you are. It has been suggested the ditches at the side of the road will be filled in to raise the level of the verge to near that of the roadbed. Of course, if they hadn't dug out the earth at the side of the road in the first place, or the road level raise too high, this may not have been necessary.

The governor also said that the work was part of winter maintenance works that were being carried out without "damaging the natural fabric" of the terrain. If what has been done on Second Ridge has not harmed the terrain, what would the most senior Turkish official in the region consider would constitute damage.

Now, having mucked up the Anzac Cove road in 2005, which subsequently had to be ripped up because it was structurally unsound and dangerous, and is now a gravel track, we are told the contractor got in wrong on Second Ridge three years later, just as officials said of the 2005 road works.

Frankly, having had one major problem wouldn't an official body such as Turkey's National Park Authority ensure that a contractor laying a four kilometre long road through a historically important and environmentally sensitive area be supervised in some form? Is it not fair to criticise those who make the same mistake a second time?

In 2005, I was as critical of the Australian government as I was of the Turkish, more so in fact. This time around, what has happened is the work of Turkish authorities, with Australian officials not being told that excavation work was to be carried out, contrary to an agreement reached in 2005. This work was stopped immediately Australian officials visited the site.

(Don't worry folks, the rant is ending soon).

Much has been made of the fact that the Gallipoli Peninsula is Turkish and that far more Turkish soldiers fell there than Allies. True on both counts, I am certainly not one to argue against geography and history. However, (you knew there would be a “however” didn't you) I have always said this debate is about protecting the heritage shared by all those countries whose men served in the campaign. Raising this issue was not an attempt to pit Australian against Turks, quite the opposite, it is a plea for the peoples and governments of all the nations whose men lie on this land to come together to protect what we share.

Bill




#38 mabel

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Posted 29 October 2008 - 02:16 PM

Kim

"One would hope that the Johnies and the Mehmets are allowed to lay in peace, not be torn asunder from their resting places, because the tourist dollar is greater than their sacrifice."

Hear, hear. I'm usually a reasonably articulate person but, for some reason, the act of posting on this site with it's many, many experts, renders me very inarticulate, however you've managed to express my feelings very well.

Mabel

#39 mabel

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Posted 29 October 2008 - 02:38 PM

Bill

I realised that my remarks about tourists not going to Gallipoli could be seen as simply cutting off noses to spite faces so to speak. The suggestion was as much about horror and frustration at the desecration being carried out as anything else. Thank you for all and any updates.

Mabel

#40 Krithia

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 09:25 AM

Hi Bill,

Thanks for the update, its hard to follow Monty Python and look on the bright side of life. Have you been to the construction site at Fusilier Bluff recently, I was wondering what the latest situation was?

regards, Krithia

#41 Rodge Dowson

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 09:52 AM

I am very concerned about what is going on here - there should be some guidelines and supervision form the Turkish Parks authority as to how this thing is being handled and why?

The heritage of sites like this is constantly at risk, the Turkish authorities have a responsibility here, not just to their own country but to the memories of all who fought and died on the peninsula...................

Rodge Dowson

#42 sommelion

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 10:57 AM

QUOTE (Krithia @ Oct 30 2008, 09:25 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Hi Bill,

Thanks for the update, its hard to follow Monty Python and look on the bright side of life. Have you been to the construction site at Fusilier Bluff recently, I was wondering what the latest situation was?

regards, Krithia


or do you have any up to date photos of the construction site at Fusilier Bluff?

#43 Eceabat

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 11:48 AM

Hi Pals,

sorry again for not being able to answer all queries things are getting even more hectic.

A good friend and staunch defender of the battlefields, Gursel Goncu (Baby 700 here on the forum) is down at Gully Ravine now. I will be able to give something of an update late today or tomorrow (depending on the blinding hangover I anticipate from tonight).

The national park DOES have very strict guidleines, and is governed by laws and regulations. One of these is that no historical site, especially the trenches, should be damaged in any way by any work. Another is that all work in the park must be first assessed by a committee of historians appointed for this purpose and then the plans go to a special heritage and culture commission, an official state body. (pauses for hysterical laughter). The head of the commission, a professor, just came out half an hour ago in the local media saying that the work on Second Ridge was not only not approved but no plans were presented.

A local association representing Turkish tour guides has just issued a statement. It started in a mild fashion with the heading "History Slaughtered at Gallipoli" and then really got stuck in. And yes, the work at Gully Ravine got a mention.

In 2005, many in Turkey saw the issue as Australia interfering in Turkish affairs, this time it is personal.

As I write, there is an official delegation on the peninsula, looking at the Second Ridge work. This group consists of senior military officers (we are talking heavy brass here), archaeologists and historians. While I fear a whitewash, I do know the guys in the green suits are way unhappy. There has been some good work done by some people here in pushing this issue behind closed doors with high command.

I'll try and post more as things develop.

Cheer
Bill


#44 Ozzie

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 11:55 AM

Thanks for the update, Bill.
Please pass on regards to those who are standing up and being heard.

Kim

#45 ShirlD

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 01:04 PM

Thanks for the updates Bill.

I suppose one of the positives in this whole sorry saga is that it is being debated quite long and loud in the media. My husband told off a former dill of a pm in the usual aussie forthright manner tonight, pity it was only the telly and not in person. I was torn between shock and laughter, if the whole thing wasn't so serious.

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#46 Jonathan Saunders

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 01:55 PM

Whats already been done has been done. But at least this time the Turks themselves seem to be saying this is wrong and procedures have not been followed. My Tony Wright book will be binned tonight - what an ****.

Would appreciate photos of what is happening at Gully Ravine.

Thanks and regards,

Jonathan S

#47 irishmen1916

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 02:22 PM

Thanks for all the info and update Bill. Will await your next post with interest (hang over and all)

Peter

#48 Eceabat

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Posted 01 November 2008 - 07:52 AM

Hi Pals,

for what it is worth, Turkey's leading English language paper, the Turkish Daily News, printed my response to the Turkish ambassador's recent article on the roadworks. The TDN had run the ambassador's piece, entitled Lessons of Gallipoli, on October 29, with the Sydney Morning Herald having originally carried the article on October 28. The SMH and the rest of the Fairfax media which carried the article by the ambassador has not responded to my request for a right of reply. At least the Turkish media has embraced the concept of free speech.

Anyway, for those who want to wade through it, here is my piece.

Cheers
Bill


Unlearned Lessons of Gallipoli
By Bill Sellars

There is much in the opinion piece Lessons of Gallipoli written by Turkey’s ambassador to Australia, Murat Ersavci, and carried by the Sydney Morning Herald on October 28 with which I agree.

There is most definitely a strong bond between Turkey, Australia and New Zealand that has grown up in the years following the First World War. This bond is grounded in the shared heritage born of the experiences and suffering during the Gallipoli Campaign of 1915.

As the ambassador rightly said, Turkey does much to facilitate the visits by foreigners to the battlefields, most particularly around the time of April 25, Anzac Day.

Turkey has indeed entered into agreements with the governments of Australia and New Zealand aimed at protecting the battlefields of 1915.

Most of all, I agree with Mr Ersavci’s statement that Gallipoli is in Turkey.

Where we differ is on what the issues are in the current debate over the recent damage to historical sites on the battlefield.

Mr Ersavci wrote that the road to Anzac Cove was being repaired and somewhat widened to allow access for the increasing number of visitors.

The fact of the matter is that the recent work is being carried out on the road running along what is known as Second Ridge, the front line area from the first day of the fighting until the last, not on the coastal road running around Anzac Cove, some 800 metres below the hills.

The work to widen the coastal road took place in early 2005, and was the cause of the controversy over the destruction of historical sites at the time.

Turkey has agreed to work with Australia and New Zealand to protect the battlefields. One such agreement, coming in the wake of the damage to the Anzac Cove area in 2005, was to establish a joint committee of experts to conduct a full historical and archaeological survey of the area. There was also a commitment that no developments, particularly excavations, would be carried out till this survey, which has yet to begin, was completed.

It was this commitment that Turkish officials failed to meet when excavating wide ditches along either side of Second Ridge road.

I do agree though with the ambassador’s statement, made to the Australian media on October 27, that, “Somebody has been digging at the side of the road, digging things up”.

Someone was, and they were using heavy earth moving equipment belonging to the Turkish State Roads Authority. It is this work that has caused irreparable damage to the battlefield and disturbed the remains of some of the many thousands of the fallen who have no known grave, their bones being removed hastily from the site by Turkish authorities.

However, rather than staying with an “I said, he said” style debate, maybe it would be better to hear what “they” said, they being some of the Turks Mr Ersavci claims will be offended by statements that Turkish authorities were responsible for the damage to historic sites.

In an article carried by leading Turkish daily Hurriyet on October 27, Professor Haluk Oral, an academic at Bosphorus University and author of the book Gallipoli 1915 Through Turkish Eyes, quoted a few lines written by one of that country’s most famous poets, Mehmet Akif, to the fallen defenders of the peninsula.

“It would be worthy if your ancestors descended from the skies and came to kiss that clean forehead.”

“If their ancestors really did descend to earth, they would have a really hard time to find a forehead to kiss among skulls shattered by bulldozers,” said Oral.

The same article also quoted historian Sahin Aldogan, co-author of a bi-lingual guidebook to the battlefields, as saying after the Anzac Cove incident in 2005 and the protests of Australia and New Zealand it was agreed to find a joint solution to any problems.

“At that time officials from the three countries got together with historians and talked. There the decision was made to carry out no changes in the area without consulting with historians. It was decided that before any decisions, before any bulldozers entered that area, historians should go in first. But we see once again that no one cares about this aspect. The operators of the graders are working, digging everywhere with no care…”

Unal Omercioglu, the head of the Canakkale Chamber of Architects, said that, “respect for history can not be left to the initiative of a bulldozer operator”.

Interviewed by local newspaper Canakkale Olay on October 29, he also pointed out that plans for the recent work on Second Ridge had not been submitted for the approval of the Canakkale Nature and Culture Protection Committee, as was required by regulations governing the national park.

The October 28 edition of the same paper carried an interview with Yetkin Iscen, a well know writer and expert on the campaign.

“According to Iscen, this site, which should have special protection and should be managed by scientists and historians, is left in the hands of Forestry Ministry staff who have no connections with the issue and do not know the area at all,” the article said.

“With this mentality, work is conducted in a manner at a historical site as if a fire break is being opened in a forest. Without asking anyone, without asking historians,” Iscen said.

Perhaps here too the ambassador is right, at least in part. They do seem offended.

Maybe it would be best to conclude with a few last words from Turkey, a stanza from the stirring Turkish national anthem, the Independence March:

“View not the soil you tread on as mere earth, recognise it!
And think about the shroudless thousands who lie so nobly beneath you.”


Bill Sellars is an Australian writer who lives on the Gallipoli Peninsula.



#49 Bryn

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Posted 02 November 2008 - 04:48 AM

In one of Bill's posts he noted, "Much has been made of the fact that the Gallipoli Peninsula is Turkish and that far more Turkish soldiers fell there than Allies. True on both counts, "

Hmmm, strange how, when it suits the authorities, there are suddenly 'far more' Turkish soldiers who died at Gallipoli than allied soldiers, when usually, the figure is given - and in most cases unquestionably accepted (just refer to a recent thread on this forum) - so that it roughly equals that of allied deaths. Seems the figure is fluid depending on the situation.

#50 Eceabat

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Posted 02 November 2008 - 01:02 PM

Hi Pals,

in these dark times, when so much is being lost by so many who hold the history and terrain of the battlefields on the Gallipoli Peninsula dear, it is hard to raise a smile. However, today I have laughed as I have not done so in a very long time.

Some of you may have seen an article penned by Murat Ersavci, Turkey's ambassador to Australia, defending the recent road works at Gallipoli and criticising myself for raising concerns over this issue.

A link to the ambassador's comments can be found at this site.

http://www.turkishda...?enewsid=118723

Now I would like to share with you the ambassador's comments on statements made by Australian historian Bill Gammage on damage to the battlefields. This article was published on July 4, 2007. With the exception of changing the word Gammage for Sellars, and cutting in a comment or two of mine in place of those by the other Bill, the two pieces are exactly the same. And I mean exactly, word perfect exactly.

It seems that one argument fits all when it comes to claims Turkish authorities have harmed the shared heritage of the peninsula. Obviously the recent concerns did not warrant anything new in the way of a response.

The link, which is carried on the embassy's official website, is below.

http://www.turkishem...article_tdn.pdf


For those with a special interest in the developments at Fusilier Bluff, I am trying to put together a detailed report, but this is soul destroying work. Bear with me on this one.

As it is, after having just spent an age laughing myself sick, I think I need a little lie down, as hysteria is an exhausting thing.

Cheers
Bill (Sellars I think but it could be Gammage)