The frontline and the coast
Today we braved the elements and walked the frontline at Anzac from Lone Pine to Walkers Ridge. Lone Pine is the site for the main Australian service on Anzac Day so it’s full of action with seating stands, a/v equipment, catafalque party rehearsals and musicians trying to warm up. Many of the soldiers we were to present had no known grave, so we found their names on the memorial wall and did rubbings to add to our photos and poppies, to present in other areas.
While there, Meagan presented Major Colin Douglas Austin, from 3 Battalion, killed in action on 6-8 August 1915 in the battle of Lone Pine. He left behind a wife, Mabel Austin, and his service records showed that when his personal effects were sent back to Australia, they were misplaced by the railways and never returned to her.
On the way up the frontline (road) we explored the old trenches that are still in evidence on the roadside. We talked about how the trenches were constructed and used to defend the positions on the side of the ridge. We even saw evidence of the tunnels dug during the campaign, imagining the tough work involved in digging through rocky soil and dealing with the dangers of mines.
4th Battalion Parade Ground Cemetery provided a welcome shelter from the cold wind, and Erin presented Walter John Styles, 9th Battalion who died of wounds on 28 April age 24 years. Erin also provided a summary of the men who enlisted from NT for the Gallipoli campaign. At the same cemetery, Varun presented James (Jimmy) Martin, who at 14 yrs and 9 months was the youngest Anzac to die at Gallipoli. At Quinns Post, Nic presented William Browning, a bugler with the 16th Battalion who died on 1st May. He was one of the first to land with his battalion and was shot by a Turkish sniper. Nic presented him at the request of a relative who is a member of the Subiaco RSL.
Walking only part way up the frontline ridge made us aware of how challenging the objectives were on the first day for soldiers fighting their way uphill, especially carrying guns, ammunition and packs. It’s strange to think that the same ground we strolled along, was where soldiers from both sides fought desperately - running, stumbling, digging and dying.
At The Nek, Erin presented Wilfred Harper, who along with his brother Gresley, was killed on 7 August as part of the ill-fated 10th Light Horse charge. Erin explained how Wilfred was the inspiration for the final scene of Peter Weir’s film Gallipoli – CEW Bean described him as ‘running at the Turkish trenches like a school boy in at a footrace’. Further down the hill at Walkers Ridge we had our final two presentations, with Madeleine telling us about her Great Great Grandfather, William Davidson of the 1st Battalion who died of wounds, aged 49, on 19 August, after fighting at Lone Pine. He was buried at sea and left behind a wife and four children. Lauren presented Frederick Wellisch of the 2nd Battalion, killed in action 26 April aged 31. He had attended Sydney Boys High School, Lauren’s brother school in Sydney.
All of the presentations were a mini memorial service for the soldiers, including leaving a photograph and laying a poppy. They provided a personal connection for us all and were very moving. Our few days here, however, have reminded us of the many nations were involved in the conflict. While we have focused on the stories of Australians, it has been great to get a broader perspective than we are usually exposed to back home.
After our morning on the frontline, it was back to the Kum Hotel for lunch, before heading off for our boat trip. We boarded a car ferry (sans bus) and climbed the stairs to the top deck for a unique view of the Anzac battlefield from the sea. The trip provided an excellent perspective and reinforced what a small area the Australians were confined to. On the trip, Ashley Ekins from the Australian War Memorial provided a commentary on the areas we could see and the significant battles that took place there. He pointed out the submerged wrecks of landing craft or old piers used in the conflict. It was also a chance to meet some of the other people, including students, who were visiting Gallipoli from Australia.
Thanks to all family, friends and previous Simpson Prize winners who are sending comments - I'm passing on all words of advice, in particular highlighting the positive comments about my guiding style - though I don't need to point out the unique nature of my sneezes - the group has experienced this first hand (or is that first ear?) And Emma - yes I have left the AWM so send me an email at agray[at]sear.org.au