The Story of the Gallipoli Oak
The Gallipoli Campaign of World War One took place between the 25 April 1915 and 9 January 1916 on the Gallipoli Peninsula, in modern south-west Turkey.
Fighting in the Gallipoli Campaign were approximately 50,000 Australians, 9,000 New Zealanders, 80,000 French and 400,000 British. The campaign was the first major battle undertaken in the war by Australia and New Zealand troops. It cost 26,111 Australian casualties, including 8,141 deaths.
In Turkey the battle is also perceived as a defining moment in the history of the Turkish people. Small prickly oak trees (now known as the Gallipoli Oak) grow along the ridges and valleys of the peninsula. Acorns were collected by several soldiers during the campaign and sent or brought back to Australia where some were subsequently planted.
General (Sir) John Monash wrote to his wife in November 1915:
“I am sending in a separate packet, a few acorns. I have made the discovery that the prickly scrub, with which these hills are covered, and which has inflicted many an unkind scratch on hands, arms and bare knees, is really a species of holly, and bears an acorn, showing that it belongs to the Oak variety. The bush is quite ornate and grows to a height of about 5 feet, much like the ordinary holly with the red berry.”
Captain William Lempriere Winter-Cooke also collected acorns and they were planted by his family in 1916 in Victoria at their home at ‘Murndal’ near Hamilton in western Victoria. Acorns were also planted where Captain Winter Cooke went to school at Geelong Grammar. Offspring from these two trees were planted at the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Shrine of Remembrance. There are likely to be many trees from these sources growing across Victoria.
In 1934, Atatürk wrote a tribute to the mothers of ANZACs killed at Gallipoli:
Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives… You are now lying 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 now 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.
(Source: Australian War Memorial)