April 25, 2015 was the 100 year anniversary of the landing of Australian and New Zealand soldiers at what became known as Anzac Cove on the Gallipoli Peninsula. This was the reason why I decided to go to Turkey. Tickets for the Memorial Service were in high demand and lotteries were conducted in Australia and New Zealand to select the few who could attend. I knew that I had no chance but decided that at least I could go there a few weeks after the big event.
The mayor of Maryborough where I grew up was Bob Hunter. He was at Gallipoli and every year just prior to the anniversary he would come round to the schools and tell the story. Later in life I realized that he was not looking at us but he was back in Turkey looking up at the hills and reliving what happened there. Back in 1980, Marianne and I visited the D Day beaches and all along the cliffs, you would see old men just standing there at their spot looking out, remembering. Those of us who have never heard shots fired in anger, need to realize how lucky we are.
I booked a day tour of Gallipoli from Istanbul. It is not inexpensive at approximately $100 but as an Aussie, there was no question that I needed to do it.
I was standing outside my hotel at the appointed time of 6:30 am and everything was quiet. The tour bus goes around and picks people up from their hotels and it was about 6:50 when the bus actually arrived. It was close to full but I had two seats to myself.
The traffic was not too bad on the way out of Istanbul and eventually we were out in the countryside.
It's a long ride down and then in the evening you have to come back.
We stopped at a restaurant to have the typical Turkish breakfast.
The bus was big enough to be comfortable but it was not a full size bus.
The road goes close to the western side of the Gallipoli peninsula so here is the Mediterranean.
The rear door is handy for getting everybody out of the bus quickly.
The Dardanelles Strait.
Arriving at Eceabat which is a port is on the other side of the peninsula from Anzac Cove. A lot of tourists take a ferry across the strait from Canakkale which is near Troy.
We were all given lunch which is part of the tour. The food was not memorable but I could get a beer to wash it down with.
Looking north along the Dardanelles Strait.
We got back on the bus with a guide called Bill and were driven across the peninsula to the western side where Bill gave us an introduction to the Gallipoli campaign. If you are not familiar with it, reading the Wiki article will be very helpful.
The first thing Bill told us was that back in 1915, there were no trees because the locals had cut them all down for construction or firewood over the centuries.
This was supposed to be where the Australian and New Zealand soldiers were supposed to land.
Inland from the proposed landing point. It would have been easy to get ashore and regroup.
Instead, the small boats were swept north about a mile and what should have been an easy landing became something totally different.
The soldiers would be faced with steep hills and a narrow area by the sea to establish themselves. Remember, there were no trees to provide cover at the time.
A couple of tour groups looking at maps and being given the lay of the land by the guides.
The island of Imbros a few miles off the coast. It became a staging post for the Anzacs. The orange colour in the water comes from some sea creature.
Beach Cemetery is at the southern end of Anzac Cove.
Where the marker is.
Australian kids are all taught about Simpson and his donkey. He was an Englishman and used a donkey to carry wounded back to the shore for treatment.
We spent some time wandering around looking at the grave stones. The relatives must have been given an opportunity to have something special inscribed but most did not. This one appealed to me.
The pill boxes actually come from WWII.
All of the graves are immaculately kept.
Back into the bus for a few hundred yards.
The center of the beach where they landed.
The beach. I picked up a pebble and it has joined my collection.
The stands used at the Anzac Day commemoration on April 25 were still being dismantled. In the background is the distinctive formation known as the Sphinx.
Supposedly this spit at the southern end was the point where the first soldiers landed.
The first soldier ashore was a Lieutenant Duncan Chapman who came from Maryborough QLD where I grew up. A statue of him was unveiled on Anzac Day. He was killed at Pozieres the following year.
However, the family of a Joseph Stratford claim that he was first.
Does it matter who was first? You had to be incredibly brave to struggle up these hills under a hail of bullets and that is what they did.
To give you some idea of how high those hills were.
Back in 1915, there were no trees.
From what I read in the news, it was not a pleasant experience for the lottery ticket winners sitting all night waiting for the Dawn Service. It would also have been quite cold.
The reason why the Anzacs did not succeed was quite simple. The Turkish soldiers were led by a Lieutenant Colonel Mustafa Kemal Attaturk who made decisions without bothering to refer to superiors in Istanbul and led the soldiers brilliantly. He was a hero after the war, became President of the country and introduced secularism. He is revered in Turkey and even the Australians have a memorial to him in Canberra.
He is reputed to have written this in 1934 to the Australian and New Zealand mothers of the dead.
Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives... you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours... You the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.
We all took a short break including the bus drivers and guides. Bill is on the right. He was an excellent guide and his English was good. He certainly knew his stuff. He does two tours a day every day which has to get old after a while, but it is a job.
A vendor in a van was selling ice creams and doing a brisk trade even if the price was double the normal. It was getting quite warm and the ice cream was welcome.
Turkish statue of a Turkish soldier carrying a wounded Australian.
The bus climbed a hill and we came to Lone Pine Cemetery. This tree is supposedly a descendant of the original pine tree that was a distinguishing feature back in 1915. If you read the Wiki article, it states that the tree is not the correct species to be a descendant.
The cemetery was established during the campaign but was enlarged after the war to accommodate bodies from other cemeteries.
This is the standard inscription.
Stands set up for another Anzac Day ceremony.
Many of the soldiers have no grave. They are remembered by inscriptions on panels like this.
Harold Carseldine was part of the Carseldine family from which I am also a descendant. A suburb in northern Brisbane is named after the family.
I am a little puzzled why his body was not buried but I suspect that the shrapnel wound and passing peacefully away was not the correct story but we shall never know. The courage required to go out on to the battlefield with no protection except a stretcher must have been immense.
The youngest Australian soldier at Gallipoli was James Martin. He was 14 at the time of his death. many boys lied about their age and joined up. It was all to be a lot of fun and adventure.
The wall with the #67 panel.
Inside. There are several books where you can write your name and comments.
View south down the coast.
The top of the stands provided a good vantage point.
Looking east to the Dardanelles.
There is a Perry there.
We got back in the bus and were driven to one of the areas where former trenches can be identified. These are Aussie trenches.
The trenches have mostly filled in over the past 100 years.
View north to Suvla Bay where the British landed.
The top of the Sphinx.
Suvla Bay. The landing and subsequent battles went badly for the British largely because of totally incompetent leadership by the English General in charge.
Just across the road from the Australian trenches are the Turkish trenches.
The area was known as Johnston's Folly
The New Zealanders also played a major part in the story of Gallipoli. Chunuk Bair was the high ground in the area and consequently a major objective. The Kiwis actually managed to capture it but were subsequently driven out by Turkish soldiers. It has become the principle memorial for the Turkish people.
Chunuk Bair is at the top right. It is less than two miles from Anzac Cove.
Turkish memorial. There were hundreds of Turkish people visiting and I think this is the only part they visit. The beaches are left to the Australians and Kiwis. Our guide told us that we were fortunate to be at Gallipoli during the week. On weekends, the Turks visit in large numbers and it is difficult to get around because of the large number of buses.
Steps down to a memorial for the Turkish soldiers.
Their names are inscribed on these long plaques. There are over 10,000 names.
372 Australian soldiers lost their lives in this area barely larger than a tennis court called the Nek. Whatever could go wrong did go wrong, The bombardment from Navy guns stopped seven minutes early and the Aussies waited until the appointed time to attack to coordinate with a separate attack by New Zealanders who were held up. In those seven minutes, the Turks had plenty of time to emerge from their shelters and be ready to repulse the attack.
The first wave of troops were massacred but unfortunately the officer in charge mistakenly thought that some troops had been successful and continued to send in extra waves of soldiers who were mown down.
The reason for the seven minutes delay was simple. Watches for the artillery and the soldiers had not been synchronized. The battle was depicted at the conclusion of Peter Weir's film Gallipoli.
View from the Nek to Suvla Bay.
The New Zealand monument to the left. Attaturk on the right.
View from Chunuk Bair across to the Dardanelles. Truly the high ground.
The Kiwis had attacked up this ridge.
The New Zealand memorial with the names of those who died.
Lieutenant Colonel Malone led the NZ attack was killed by friendly fire when Allied artillery fired on the Kiwi soldiers.
I was surprised to see a separate plaque for the Maori soldiers.
We got back on to the bus and headed back to Istanbul where we arrived about 10:30 pm. There was a stop for food at a greasy spoon restaurant at a petrol station that reminded me of similar places on the highway from Sydney to Melbourne. I just bought an ice cream.
I was really glad to make the trip. Other than the sadness at so many lives being wasted on both sides, my main feeling was amazement at how small an area was involved. The following maps from Google Earth are from roughly the same height and the yellow line is a bit less than two miles long.
Chesapeake Isle where I live.