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.
Every year, as Anzac Day approaches, people become curious about Anzac biscuits. Maybe it's because the thought of them is a delectable relief to the sombreness of that day and all that it represents.But it is easy to make mistakes about Anzac biscuits, strangely enough. The biscuit that most of us know as the Anzac biscuit is a sweet biscuit made from rolled oats and golden syrup. These must not be confused with that staple of soldiers' and sailors' rations for centuries, the hardtack biscuit.
If we were sensible and thoughtful students, we would talk about the rich cultural experience we had today visiting the Blue Mosque, Topaki Palace, Basilica Cistern and Hagia Sophia. We would describe the centuries old Christian and Muslim history associated with these places, reflecting on the significant events and people that are part of Turkish history.
The tour has been visiting some of the famous sites of the old city including the Hippodrome, Haghia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. These grand and glorious monuments tell us much of Istanbul's long history. This city is the former capital of three successive empires Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman.
Merhaba - after a marathon plane flight we made it. Istanbul is awesome – huge, fast- paced, chaotic and full of people. A cruise on the Bosphorus was a great way to experience the city from the relative calm of our boat. We saw many palaces and mosques, and noted that nearly everything has a Turkish flag. Amazing houses right on the water, just like the OC but older and more expensive. We also cruised Istiklal St, just down from the hotel, and managed to avoid getting run over by trams, cars, bikes and pedestrians – quite an achievement.
My colleague Robyn Van Dyk and I have probably taken well over 1,200 people on guided tours of the Memorial's current special exhibition Lawrence of Arabia and the Light Horse. As ANZAC Day 2008 approaches it is interesting to reflect on which Light Horse images have resonated most profoundly with our visitors. This week, I also took some veterans from the Vietnam War through the exhibition.