Well, by the look of all the comments we don’t have to tell you what we’ve been up to, as you’ve seen us in action on TV. Before Lone Pine, though, we had of course been at the Dawn Service at North Beach. We got up after midnight, dressed warmly (some with every layer they possibly could) and headed off to the site. It was amazing to see the place full of people in sleeping bags and in the stands. Thanks to Dept of Veterans Affairs we got some great seats, just behind the NSW Premier’s group of students. It was at the front of the stands, close to the water so we had a great view of the commemorative site and sea with lights shooting out across it.
While it was cold waiting for dawn, Andrew assured us we were lucky that there was no cold wind like last year. There was an interpretive program that ran on the big screens either side of the site that included interviews with people who had travelled to Gallipoli for the services and a presentation of soldiers names and details of a few Australian and New Zealand soldiers killed in the campaign - very moving.
There was a live musical performance of an original piece, part four of a composition that is being built up each year in the lead up to the 100th Anniversary in 2015. During this performance the hills and cliffs above the site (The Sphinx, Plugges Plateau and Walkers Ridge) we bathed in coloured light, with the whole ridgeline back lit. It added to the amazing atmosphere in the place.
After our days traveling around Turkey, it was funny being a place where you kept hearing the familiar Australian accent, Oz flags and kangaroos everywhere – we could have easily been back home, except for all the Turkish stall holders yelling “kebab, kebab, kebab” or “coffee, coffee, tea, nescafe”.
The service started with dawn light illuminating the ridge, a light mist and gulls dipping over the gentle sea. Commemorative addresses from New Zealand and Australian speakers reminded us of what happened in this place 94 years ago, the importance of remembering soldiers from all side of the conflict, not glorifying war but honouring the service and sacrifice of these men. The service seemed to race by, and before long it was over. For many in the group it was our first Dawn Service, but definitely not the last.
We walked out of the site, along beach road and up Artillery Road, accompanied by Kiwis, Aussies and Turks, all a bit tired but in good spirits. At Lone Pine we changed into our gear for wreath handling duties and Lauren did full change into her school uniform. From the many comments to the previous post, you can easily see what our main experience was for that service. Lauren excelled with a moving reading of The Last to Leave, complemented by the MC and warm applause from the audience. The rest of us wreath wrangled with grace and poise.
After the service we had many people come up and complement our work, including the NSW Premier. We then joined many other groups and individuals who laid their own floral tributes. The message on our wreath came from an epitaph Lauren found on one soldier's grave “Some day, some time we will understand”. Given the cold, windy weather we had over the last few days, it was great to have such a fine sunny day for the Lone Pine service – a complete contrast the day we went there for a quick rehearsal and almost got blown away.
So now we are back at the Kum Hotel enjoying a well earned rest and getting ready to head back to Istanbul tomorrow for our last few days here in Turkey. Comments from past winners about the importance of keeping in touch is already in evidence with our group, sharing an amazing experience that will stay with us for a long time. Thanks again for all the comments – it’s a great way to share the experience we are having together.