Turkey, a Saga. Part 3

7 May

Gallipoli

Throughout the night, we were wrapped in many layers (about eight) plus a sleeping bag, beanies, gloves and two pairs of socks. We added layers slowly through the night as the temperature dropped. As a result of arriving late, we could only get a spot in one of the grand stands, instead of on the grass and being able to lay down and sleep. We hung our Australian flags against the barrier (which also acted as a wind block) and sat for a while admiring the sunset. Anzac Cove is such a beautiful area – the cliffs behind us and the flat ocean that stretches beyond the horizon really is so beautiful.

It was tough sitting there in the cold, let alone trying to sleep sitting up. Some of us did manage a lie down on the seats or on the floor of the stands, only to be told to sit up so the more and more bus loads of people who arrived throughout the night could sit also. But it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and besides, our soldiers went through much worse. We could tough it out for one night of our lives.

We drifted in and out of sleep, while every half hour snippets from documentaries about the Gallipoli campaign, stories about the soldiers from their families and a marching band played throughout the night, keeping boredom and thoughts of being cold at bay. Warren Brown (from the Australian Top Gear) hosted the night and introduced the various documentaries that played throughout the night. We certainly learnt a lot about the Gallipoli campaign and how our men were really heroes and had a certain Aussie fearlessness that makes us so special as a country today.

ANZAC DAY

April 25th 1915. It’s dawn and boats carrying Australian and New Zealand soldiers landed on the beach of what is now known as Anzac Cove on the Gallipoli Peninsula. The plan was to capture the Ottoman empire, an ally of Germany, and to infiltrate the Western Front in Europe. Australian, New Zealand and British soldiers joined together in the hope to deprive Germany of an important ally and so planned a strike. The Australian soldiers were set a landing point. It was an endeavour that has been said was misconceived and ‘doomed to fail’, a result of strong currents and ill-navigation. These men weren’t expecting Turkish soldiers in their thousands on the cliff overlooking the beach, watching them arrive. Many didn’t even set foot on the shore before they were killed on that fateful morning so long ago in history, a day that will never be forgotten.

Ninety-six years on and thousands of Aussies, Kiwi’s and Turks stand in friendship to remember and honour what was to be the start several months of fighting at Gallipoli. That very same beach and landing point, the very same cliffs, the same spot we were standing, make an eerie homage to the thousands of soldiers who died here, fighting for their country, fighting for freedom.

The first rays of light are just visible on the horizon and a memorial service is taking place. We were fighting sleep and the cold, but our soldiers were fighting men, other boys, other sons and brothers. 45 minutes on and the laying of wreaths marks the end of the service. Not one solider who fought at Gallipoli is still alive, but the thousands who attend this service and the thousands more services around the world all gather and remember them so their stories and spirits can live on. We head down to the beach and put ourselves in the soldiers’ shoes. We look up at the cliffs, at the rugged terrain and imagine the men fighting their way up. An Australian, New Zealand and Turkish flag hang on their poles, blowing ever so gently in the breeze.

We start the walk up to Lone Pine, almost 4km up the hill. An Australian service takes place here, on the site of the bloodiest battles during the whole campaign. Fighting was at close quarters in the Turkish trenches – not only guns, but with their bare hands, fists and knives. A pine tree, overlooking the soldiers’ graves, is a reminder of what the landscape once looked like before the battle, before the land would have looked like a war zone – literally. The pine was planted to symbolise the name the soldiers gave to this place, named after a popular song of the time. It’s incredible to be here at the Lone Pine memorial site – the size of a football field – where we were told up to 10,000 soldiers (Turkish and Australian) are believed to have died here, their remains still in the ground. It’s a solemn place, but one we should all visit and take the time to remember.

We’re glad we got to experience the place where the Anzac legend was born, a must-do pilgrimage and right of passage for any Australian and New Zealander. It is our patriotic duty to stand in place and remember the acts of these brave soldiers who fought to secure the freedoms that I know we certainly take for granted today.

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3 Responses to “Turkey, a Saga. Part 3”

  1. Carol Edwards May 10, 2011 at 4:50 PM #

    Melinda, reading each of your Blogs is an absolute pleasure. Your writing makes all of your adventures seem so real and many of us look forward to each instalment of your experiences. Keep up the excellent work. Someone even suggested to me that you should be writing a novel! Of course Matt’s blogs are interesting reading too! Wouldn’t want Matt to feel left out.

  2. Mel May 11, 2011 at 5:29 AM #

    Thanks Carol – really love hearing the great feedback. It’s something that I love doing, so it’s nice to know others enjoy reading my stuff too! You never know, maybe I should try and publish a travel book… thanks for the encouraging words. xo

  3. Mel May 11, 2011 at 5:30 AM #

    Oh, and Matt’s blogs are equally as entertaining in his own way. He has another one in the pipeline, so hopefully he’ll find the time to post another one soon xo

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today was meaningful

a collection of thoughts, life lessons, and days full of meaning.

Liv Hambrett

An Australian in Germany

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