Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison today proudly acknowledged the work of local school students at Thornton Public School and those at TED Mersin College in Turkey as she joined local authors and historians John Gillam and Yvonne Fletcher and illustrator Lillian Webb at the launch of their latest book, Turkish Charlie Ryan, at the ANZAC Memorial in Sydney’s Hyde Park.
Keynote speaker Air Vice Marshall Bob Treloar, who penned the forward to the book, addressed those gathered including Shadow Minister for Veterans Affairs Linda Voltz and Shadow Minister for the Hunter, Kate Washington MP.
This is John and Yvonne’s sixth book collaboration and tells the story of Australian Major General Sir Charles Snodgrass Ryan. He served as a surgeon in the Turkish army in the Balkans and, 40 years later, showed incredible heroism for Australia during the Gallipoli campaign, particularly on the brief armistice on the 24th of May 1915.
“Incredibly, Turkish Charlie Ryan is a story that could have been completely forgotten in Australia if it wasn’t for the students at Thornton Public School and TED Mersin College,” Ms Aitchison said. “Now hopefully all Australian school students will get to know about it.”
During the ANZAC Centenary, students at TED Mersin College Turkey, guided by their history teacher Celal Yildirim, reached out to the families of the ANZACs through a project they called "Two Trenches One Letter".
The project was so successful in forming a relationship between the ANZAC and Mehmet descendants it evolved into Skype sessions where the students could connect with each other more naturally.
It was at these Skype sessions that the students from TED Mersin College asked Mrs Fletcher and Mr Gillam if they knew who Charles Ryan was.
“Suddenly it was a case of the students teaching the teachers,” Ms Aitchison said. “The historical search undertaken by Mrs Fletcher and Mr Gillam, and inspired by the students, developed into a book.
“It became more than learning about “Turkish Charlie Ryan” – it incorporated the fascinating way that digital technology is changing our perspective on history and, importantly, opportunities for peace now and in the future.
“This was made clear during the launch when Air Vice Marshall Bob Treloar quoted from a letter written by a 13-year-old Turkish student which said:
‘I know that your great grandfather lost his life in the battle of Gallipoli, and that you make “Dawn Service” in Anzac Bay on the 25th of April every year. My aim is not to give you sorrow by reminding you of the sad memories of the past. It is to make friendship connections with you. That was a war and there were lots of losses. Neither Turkish nor Anzac soldiers spared mercy from each other despite the war. Yet, they threw gifts to each other from the trenches. They did all of these despite their oaths to kill each other. If our ancestors had shown this mercy even in war time, why shouldn’t we in peace time?'"
Ms Aitchison was humbled to receive an engraved plaque with Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s famous quote from 1934 on behalf of her husband Councillor Robert Aitchison, who provided the Skype facilities at their then-company headquarters in Thornton.
“We were delighted that Yvonne, John and the Thornton Public School students could make use of our facilities to enhance their knowledge and understanding but, most importantly, build relationships that foster peace and goodwill,” Ms Aitchison said.
Turkish Charlie Ryan is supported by a Teacher Notes package that aligns to the National Curriculum for History and English. It has also been granted permission to carry the prestigious Centenary of ANZAC logo. For more information on the book visit https://legends-lessons.myshopify.com