Our last morning in Turkey has finally arrived as we work out how to stuff everything into already bulging bags and spend our remaining lira. The final day yesterday included a visit to the beautiful Chora Church which features mosaics depicting the life of the Virgin Mary. Being a Sunday it was a little easier to get around Istanbul without the usual crazy traffic.
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.
Anzac Cove is the name given to this stretch of the west coast of the Turkish Peninsula where the Australians and New Zealanders made their landing on the 25 April 1915. The landing marked the start of an eight month campaign on the Gallipoli Peninsula. The Anzacs under General Birdwood were to make the northern landing. Once ashore they were to press inland.The Battlefield tour took a boat trip yesterday to the coast where the Anzacs made their famous landing on the morning of Sunday 25 April.
A couple of days after the landing on the 25th April 1915 the weather turned bitterly cold for the Anzacs dug in at Gallipoli. Having been blessed with the weather so far, the battlefield tour received a good dose of what it would have been like for the diggers in 1915.
Homer described the location of the city of Troy as situated at the entrance of the Dardanelles. The Gallipoli campaign was fought a few kilometres from the site of the ancient city. The historical connections between the ancient and modern battlefields were not lost on the Australians fighting in this region. Many Anzacs found pieces of ancient pottery when tunnelling into the hills.The battlefield tour took the opportunity to walk through the ruins of this ancient city and to take some group photographs. We are divided into two groups Green (top) and Gold (bottom).
There are only five known Aboriginal servicemen buried at Gallipoli, however, it is estimated that 500-800 Aboriginal diggers served in the First World War. Ethnicity was not recorded in the enlistment process and research into indigenous service can involve trawling across many different sources, sometimes we may never know who these servicemen were.
For all Australians, Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance and commemoration. Looking back to the landing at Gallipoli at dawn on 25th April 1915, what is extraordinary is the speed with which that day became known as Anzac Day in Australia. The event was so significant that within less than a year the Returned Services Association of New South Wales was raising funds for an Anzac Day Memorial, and the Queensland Department of Public Instruction had already published a text for students entitled ‘Anzac Day'.
The first action by the Allies against the Ottomans began as a naval operation and occurred here on the Dardanelles. On the 18 March a large British and French fleet of 18 war ships advanced towards the Narrows, hoping to put the forts that defended the Dardanelles out of action, threaten Constantinople and open supply routes to Russia.The war operation began with preliminary bombardments of the Turkish forts in January and February 1915. The operation failed due to the impenetrable defences of this passage which included artillery and mines that were laid strategically in the narrows.
Stepping on two continents
It's great to see that the concept of quiet Sunday morning traffic exists in other places around the world. Leaving Istanbul was quick and simple, even though we got an idea of just how big a city of 16 million people can be. A drive through green countryside was very pleasant, noting the complete lack of fences and many shepherds with sheep and goats. The boy from Kingaroy has seen plenty of tractors in his time in Australia, but out in the paddocks, not cruising down the road like they do here.
On the journey from Istanbul to the Dardanelles the Battlefield tour noticed this striking memorial on the slopes of the Kilitbahir Plateau. In English it translates to:
The ground you tread on, unawares,
Once witnessed the end of a generation.
Listen in this quiet earth
Beats the heart of a nation.