ANZAC Day at Gallipoli - Simpson Prize 2011
The day started for us with a midnight wake up call. We needed to allow plenty of time to beat the traffic and certainly to get as close as we can to the service. When you consider that our hotel is the closets hotel to the dawn service and that we are only about 8 kms away, you can start to imagine how hard it is to get people into the site for this commemoration. So it was a heart starter coffee and on the bus by 1 am and the anticipation from the students was palpable. They certainly recognised the significance of what they were about to do. I think they were all excited before hand as well because despite our best advice of when to sleep, it went unheeded and they played poll and Backgammon right up until it was time to go. They are paying for it now though as most of them practically fell asleep in their lunch.
Arriving at the service we went through the usual security checks and then it was on to our reserved seating. We knew we had a long wait and we rugged up, got some sleeping bags and wore half our suitcases at once. Four hours in the cold before the service was to start so we didn’t want to be under dressed. I didn’t have a sleeping bag and Lauren lost hers somewhere (turns out it was on the bus) but Chelsea was kind enough to unzip hers and share. I think they made a psychological difference more than a physical barrier from the cold. All around the centre of the site was a sea of long coloured sleeping bags and the backpackers cocooned inside them. Oddly enough it made me crave snake lollies. The big screens showed snippets of documentaries about the campaign and the Air force band played some nice tunes. As the morning went on it grew colder and colder and activity had to happen to take our mind off it. We walked down around the food stalls and smelled the beautiful BBQ’d meats and coffee and looked at the market stalls. It was all you would probably expect, t-shirts, jackets, blankets and the food was mainly kebabs, hot chips, skewers etc. On the boards of more than one food van, under the high priced food list was a dish called “Observation”. Despite our best efforts we still don’t know what observation was and if it was tasty but it was 10 Turkish Lira and some sort of obscurely miss translated food.
The service was beautiful and very solemn. The crowd were in the spirit of the occasion and it looked to be a good size crowd. We sat at the front of the seated section and watched the dignitaries walk along next to our stand to make their entrance. All the speeches were great and as seems to be the case the last post moved many to tears. Just as the light started to gently wash over us and as quickly as it had all begun it was over and those thousands of visitors shuffled out quietly to the sound of waves lapping at the shore of the beach.
We then started our long trek up the artillery road to the Lone Pine service. This service would have special meaning for all the Simpson Prize kids as they would play and active and very important role in the service. They were to act as the wreath orderlies. What an exceptional job they did. They had been well drilled by Andrew and I and I am sure that the organisers were a little shocked, but pleasantly so, that the students knew exactly what they were doing. This ceremony kicks off mid morning and is a different kind of ceremony. IT is much more relaxed and in some ways the relaxed and more intimate commemoration touched a few of the students more than the dawn. The Fanatics were there and very well behaved and good to see their numbers still good for this important day. At the end of the service the students lay their own wreath and to me it seemed like a very fitting way to mark the end of the day and cap of their experience.
Well today was the day, the pinnacle of the experience and certainly a big part of why these students entered the prize.