Another three days on the peninsula
Wednesday - To Helles and back
Following our exploration of the ANZAC part of the Gallipoli campaign, we moved to Cape Helles to look at the battles that took place at the south of peninsula. A visit to the British Memorial reminded us of the significant naval presence and the huge number of British troops involved in the battles for Krithia. At the top of the cliff we looked down onto V Beach where the River Clyde beached and the British troops were cut down as they tried to establish a beachhead.
The Canakkale Sehitler Abidesi (Monument of Canakkale Martyrs) is a huge memorial on the tip of the peninsula and gives an impression of strength and power. A stone relief at the base of the memorial showed Turks and ANZACs developing mutual respect during the May armistice. There were many bus loads of Turkish visitors at this memorial and we had our picture taken with some soldiers. An impressive part of the memorial was the etched glass headstones that names thousands of Turkish soldiers killed in the campaign.
A brief stop at the French cemetery reminded us of the many French colonial troops, mostly from Africa, who were part of the campaign. After the busy areas we had been, it was a real change to visit this very quiet and peaceful cemetery. It was very French - ordered and symmetrical with wrought iron crosses and fleur de lis designs. The epitaphs on each cross were all the same, in contrast to the individual nature of the Australian ones.
In the afternoon we were very lucky to join the other battlefield tour groups for a boat trip off the coast of ANZAC. It was great to get this perspective and is a good way to confirm the location of the many sites we had visited and the layout of the coastline. A very clear day allowed us to see the island of Samothrace for the first time. A final afternoon at the Kum Hotel was a chance to take our cross cultural sporting endeavors further, playing French cricket with a Turkish bat.
Thursday - Bush bashing
Today was a chance to have long trek in the Turkish bush. We went north of the Suvla area to the ridge called Kirec Tepe. This is where Brisith troops battled with the Turks during the August landing. It was rugged and spectacular country with the ocean on one side and the Suvla plain on the other. There were many relics to be found on the way such as shells, rum jar fragments, barbed wire and tins.
We came across a shepherd who was looking after his goat herd and were impressed that such an ancient tradition was still happening. He whistled to his dogs, wrapped his stick on the rocks and then pulled out his mobile phone to make a call. On the way we stopped at a rock cairn to listen to a poetry reading from Emma Campbell. She had wr5tten a poem in response to her experiences in ANZAC. It was inspired by a famous speech from Mustafa Kemal.
On the famous shore,
In the misty morning,
I hear the birds sing.
Among the flowers;
a sea of graves,
a testament to their sacrifice.
The brave who fell,
too young and too innocent to die
but who gave their lives,
so that we may live free.
To fight an enemy,
a man like you with a heart and soul,
who would die like you for his country.
Alike in life, and the same in death.
The message of a family who has lost someone dear,
is carved in stone to mark where he lies.
What does a mother say to her son who lies in a land far away?
What matter is his death was noble,
or he died a hero?
What use is a medal, when you have lost a son?
But we must be proud of what they gave,
the penultimate gift.
Could this place of peace really have been a battlefield?
Nature's scars may have healed,
yet the wounds of the mothers go too deep.
As the dawn light shines on the waves,
I salute you; Johnnies and Mehmets.
May your rest be long and your sleep deep,
You are remembered together.
Friday - The big day
ANZAC Day was upon us, starting at midnight on a cold and windy evening. It was amazing to be part of the event, with a very friendly vibe and great atmosphere. We had a busy media time with Emma Norton doing a radio interview via mobile phone, Oliver and Elizabeth doing a live cross to the Sunrise show and Jacinta and James talking to the Morning Show. It was great watching the reaction of other visitors at the site, excited to see young Australians talking about their experience on TV. The Sunrise segment generated a little fan club for Oliver and Elizabeth, with applause and photos after their segment.
Thousands of young people, in their mid 20s to 30s, were all over the place in their sleeping bags. Talking to a few showed that many were Australians living and working in Britain and Europe. Lighting on the surrounding landscape, particularly the Sphinx and the ocean, was very spectacular. The actual dawn service was not as moving as some of us had anticipated, but all agreed it was a once in a life-time experience.
On the way up Artillery Road we talked to many Aussies and Kiwis who were moving up for ceremonies at Lone Pine and Chunnuk Bair. It was funny catching bits of conversation as they talked to each other about their experiences and felt privileged that our time here had been so special.
The Lone Pine site was very windy and wild, but we all had a role to play in this service. Oliver was reading a poem and the rest of us were wreath handlers. Lone Pine is the site of the Australian service and again a very friendly atmosphere prevailed. After the service we were one of a number of groups who laid a wreath. Ours had the epitaph ‘They gave best, their lives, their all'. By the end we were starting to feel very tired, but managed one last final commemorative activity with a wreathlaying at Kesik Dere a Turkish memorial site, as a tribute to our former foe. Again our resident poet laureate Emma C best expresses this expewrience.
In the icy cold we await the dawn,
the break of light over rugged cliffs.
I sing and am proud,
but the emotion is lost in the pomp and ceremony.
and although I am honoured to have done my duty,
my eyes remain dry.
It is the laying of a wreath in a simple cemetery
to honour our former enemies
now dearest friends,
that awakens the spirit.
I can feel you and your mates around me.
My tears flow as you charge to battle before me;
as you play the Last Post to welcome the night.
Though I am sad
your presence comforts me.
I feel safe with you watching on.
I see you charging over the ridge,
hear your battle cry.
The noise of the guns is deafening,
the ground drenched with blood.
I blink back my tears and the scene slowly fades.
I cannot see you anymore,
and the further I walk the fainter you become.
But I know that throughout my life you will be there,
watching over me and keeping me safe.
Our bond cannot be broken,
you are part of this land and deep in my heart.
Thank you my hero for all you
have done, and will do.
Which brings to an end our Gallipoli peninsula adventure. Stay tuned for our final blog posts from Istanbul.