Prince Charles and Prince Harry meet Gallipoli relatives

Royals hold event for descendants of first World War campaign veterans

The Prince of Wales and Prince Harry have met relatives of veterans of the Gallipoli campaign, who 100-years ago were on the eve of what turned out to be one of Britain's worst military disasters.

The royals were on the flight deck of the Royal Navy's flagship HMS Bulwark in Turkey's Dardanelles straits, the same waters that the Allies hoped to control in the first World War.

The ship is to be sent to assist operations in the Mediterranean migrant crisis.

The campaign's plan was to knock the Ottomans out of the war and open a sea route to Russia, but because of poor planning, hostile conditions and strong opposition, the operation was halted eight months later, after the deaths of 58,000 Allied troops. Some 87,000 Turks died defending their home soil.

The amphibious assault started at dawn on April 25th, 1915, as waves of British and Irish, French, Australian, New Zealand and Indian troops attacked beaches in the region.

Many of the soldiers were cut down before they reached the shore and the sea was said to have run red with blood.

The royal party met 15 descendants of campaign veterans, who were selected to join the commemorations on the peninsula and ceremonies at Commonwealth War Graves Commission sites.

Ben Goddard (37) was there to honour his great-grandfather Private Alfred William Goddard, of 2nd Hampshire Regiment, who landed on V Beach on April 25th, 1915.

He was hit on the elbow by shrapnel 11 days later, but survived the hostilities and was discharged in 1918.

Mr Goddard, from Ropley, Hampshire, knew nothing about the Gallipoli campaign until he researched his family tree and found out about his ancestor’s war record.

He said: “So many men fought and did not come back. That should be remembered, whether the campaign was a disaster or not.”

Martyrs’ memorial

Prince Charles joined Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the huge Canakkale Martyrs' Memorial, which commemorates thousands of local men who were buried in unmarked graves.

The audience of world leaders also included President Michael D Higgins.

Prince Charles praised the heroism and humanity shown by soldiers from both sides a century ago.

“All those who fought at Gallipoli, whether landing on or defending its shores, hailed from so many different nations and peoples, from an almost infinite variety of backgrounds and walks of life. And, whilst their origins were diverse, they were all thrust into a very different world than they would have ever known or imagined before.

“Indeed, in 1915, both sides were united by challenges that neither could escape - the devastating firepower of modern warfare, the ghastly diseases that added to the death tolls, the devastating summer heat which brought plagues of insects, and in winter, just before the battle ended, the biting cold that many wrote was worse than the shelling itself.”

Charles said it was shameful that, despite two World Wars, peace had not persisted.

“If I may dare say so, we all have a shared duty, each in our own way as individuals, but also together as leaders, communities and nations, to find ways to overcome that intolerance - to fight against hatred and prejudice in pursuit of greater harmony - so that we can truly say we have honoured the sacrifices of all those who fought and died on battlefields here, at Gallipoli, and elsewhere.”

The remarkable memorial features a 148ft long relief of fighting Turks, led by Mustafa Kemal, who was to become Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey.