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Harvey Broadbent: Telling the Gallipoli story from the other side

Page last published: 21 Apr 2015

Associate Professor Harvey BroadbentThe first time Associate Professor Harvey Broadbent ever heard about the Gallipoli saga was in the late 1960s. He was 21, had just completed his Education degree, and moved to Turkey with his wife to teach English and Drama at a Turkish Black Sea high school. Little did he know back then that this will be the start of his lifelong journey of revisiting and uncovering the stories of Gallipoli.

Harvey says, "[Two years of working in Turkey] brought me new horizons, the acquisition of a new language, Turkish, and an introduction to the Ottoman and Turkish history and life in the Eastern Mediterranean region. I was eager to find out more, hence enrolling in 1971 for my honours degree in Near Eastern Studies at Manchester."

"When [my family and I] arrived as migrants to Australia in 1975, I saw the importance of Gallipoli to Australians. I was working at ABC and saw that my Turkish skills could be useful in adding more to Australians' understanding of this seminal event in the country's history."

Harvey's first work about Gallipoli is Johnny Turk After Gallipoli, a radio documentary series broadcast by ABC in 1981. Afterwards he produced several major television programs and series including Gallipoli, The Fatal Shore (1998), winner of the United Nations Association of Australia Media Peace Award; Gallipoli 75th Anniversary Pilgrimage (1990); Live from Gallipoli (1990), awarded the Television Society award for Best Special Event Television; The Boys Who Came Home (1990); and documentary film Revealing Gallipoli (2005).

Turkish army unit poses for a victory photograph Uncovering more stories

His intensive research into Gallipoli continued on when he started the Gallipoli Centenary Research Project in 2006, a 6-year research collaboration between Macquarie University, the Australian War Memorial, the Australian Research Council (ARC), Turkey's Middle East Technical University, and the Turkish Military Archives. The project identified and translated a large collection of un-researched files each containing hundreds of documents relating the Turkish conduct of the Gallipoli campaign. These documents include battlefield reports and signals, War Ministry communications, records of prisoner interrogations, aircraft logs and diaries, and First World War Turkish press reports.

Harvey shares that one of most memorable experiences he had during the research was meeting Bulent Yilmazer, a Turkish researcher who provided some insights into the little known aviation aspects at Gallipoli.

"[Bulent Yilmazer] showed me and shared some rare documents and photos, including a whole original album that had belonged to a German air ace at Gallipoli. This gave us unknown information about how the Ottomans used aircraft and their reconnaissance efforts."

Throughout his career as TV and radio producer, academic, researcher, and author, Harvey has interviewed Gallipoli veterans, and worked with Turkish academics and researchers who helped him gain access to important archives. While digging through the archives and stories, Harvey also discovered pieces of information about his own family history. His family had soldiers who fought in World War One, and had a great uncle who was killed at Gallipoli in 3rd Battle of Krithia in June 1915.

"I learned lots of things about the nature of war and its impact on soldiers and commanders in the field, and especially how soldiers' lives are wasted by bad strategy and tactics, and the folly of others," Harvey shared.

"I think many Turks believe, rightly or wrongly, that they were duped into being German allies, led by the poor judgement of their leaders in 1914, and that similarly the Anzacs were somehow duped into fighting at Gallipoli for Britain, thus giving common ground and a shared experience between Turks and Australians."

Learning from the past

Harvey's latest books – Gallipoli, the Turkish Defence, and Defending Gallipoli - reveal new evidences and information about the Gallipoli campaign, open up alternative viewpoints, and tell the 'stories from the other side of Gallipoli.'

According to Harvey, over the past decade, both Turkey and Australia had grasped the relevance of the Gallipoli campaign to their national identities, and its importance to the national psyche of both nations. This brought the two countries into a closer and a special relationship.

This year, at the centenary of the World War I Gallipoli campaign, as we commemorate the sacrifices of the Anzacs, we are able to reflect on the Gallipoli history with a deeper understanding of the Turkish perspective - thanks to the immense work of Associate Professor Harvey Broadbent.

Visit the Gallipoli Centenary Research Project website

Gallipoli the Turkish DefenceGallipoli, the Turkish Defence

Associate Professor Harvey Broadbent's books Gallipoli, the Turkish Defence and Defending Gallipoli (2015, Melbourne University Publishing) were launched in February at Macquarie University Art Gallery's Perceptions of War exhibition opening.

Former Governor of New South Wales Professor The Honourable Dame Marie Bashir AC CVO, who officially launched the books, noted the importance of Harvey's work: "This splendid book is a gift to Australian history, a gift to the nation. It is a wonderfully balanced and superbly researched book/historical document that will live long in Australian psyche and Australian libraries."

"The research is absolutely meticulous...the sincerity and scholarship of Associate Professor Broadbent became apparent to the Turkish government and the archivists to allow him to have access to some of the most important documents in the country, which are then shared with all of you who will read this wonderful book."

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