Experiencing the peninsula - Simpson Prize 2014
Today is a day where we try to experience the peninsula as much as we can the way the soldiers did. Cruising the waters off the Anzac area of operations gives the students a perspective of where the major actions of the campaign happened and maybe a sense of what the men saw as they rowed ashore. Walking the front line, a little surprise for the students that will give them a taste of how these men lived, and then on to a walk through the New Zealand area down to the beach. Always a long day but I have found it a rewarding one.
The day began with a cruise on the Aegean Sea, seeing the peninsula from the same vantage point that the ANZACs would have almost 100 years ago. It gave a much wider perspective on the area which made it possible to apply my knowledge of the various offensives to their physical location amongst the gullies and ridges. What was surprising seeing the battlefields we now know well from a distance was how close together they really are; it's incredible to think that all the events we've learnt about, and all the stories we've heard in the past few days occurred in such a small area geographically.
Following lunch (which was disappointingly lacking in the glorious Hotel Kum potato salad) we were delivered to Lone Pine for rehearsals of Friday's service. The epitaph readers were all acclaimed by those present and I felt that my poem reading was also quite successful so we are all in good stead for the real event.
After Lone Pine, we visited the Baby 700 cemetery where Stuart told us the story of Major Swanell, a born leader who lead the first charge up past Baby 700 despite the obstacle of the extreme inexperience of the soldiers under his command, and died during the same charge after being shot in the head. Yesterday when we visited the Turkish and French memorials we observed the different attitudes towards recognition for fallen officers as compared with that of their infantrymen counterparts. We had noted that the Australian cemeteries were quite deliberately egalitarian in their treatment of the fallen soldiers, but hearing the story of Swanell reminds us that it is also important to recognise the dedication of specific leaders within the ranks of the Australian army.
Immediately following this poignant moment, Stuart decided to introduce us to the wonders of Bully Beef in what was perhaps a more hands-on manner than any of us expected or, quite frankly, desired. With the film of oil and salt still coating the insides of our mouths, we continued our journey to the New Zealand memorial Chunuk Bair. For me, seeing the New Zealand perspective was very important as it's not something we tend to really look at when studying Anzac at school back in Australia, which is strange when you think that the acronym ANZAC includes 'New Zealand'.
We then walked down from the memorial along Rhododendron Ridge and down to the road not far from Anzac Cove; retracing the steps of the New Zealand troops in 1915. The walk was hard in places (especially the places where Stuart lead us in a direction which was definitely not an established path) and when we reached the base of the hill, Orhan's comment was that it was 'not to be attempted by those over fifty'.
After a tiring day, it was back to the hotel for dinner from which the potato salad was also sadly absent and then to bed in preparation for an early start tomorrow.