WEDNESDAY “AND THE BAND PLAYED WALTZING MATILDA” After having breakfast at a small restaurant we went around to the Troy Anzac Travel Agency to wait the departure of our trip over to the ANZAC battlefields at 10 a.m. Our guide was an oldish Turk called Hussain and once we were on board his minibus he began to tell us the facts about the Gallipoli campaign. The Narrows are only 1300m wide and the Allied plan was to sail up The Dardanelles and capture Istanbul, thus securing an ice free supply route for Russia. The campaign fell into 4 phases:
- the naval blockade of The Dardanelles by French and British warships. This was foiled by the guns in the Narrows.
- the ANZAC landings at Anzac Cove and the British and French landings at Cape Hellas.
- further British landings at Suvla Bay and simultaneous offences by the hellas and Anzac forces. Both these plans were foiled by the Turkish Army.
- the withdrawal from the Peninsula which was accomplished without the loss of life.
We were met on the other side by a dolmüs which drove us the 14 km to Anzac Cove on the Aegean side of the peninsula. Our first stop was a small graveyard where 365 Australian soldiers are buried beside the sea. There is always a wind blowing on the peninsula but still it was a calm and peaceful place. We walked along the dusty road to the small monument which marks Anzac Cove and Hussein told us the reason why the Anzacs landed there instead of at the correct landing site, called Brighton Beach, one 1/2 km to the south. Here, the soldiers were told, they could expect flat land and easy going but instead, they found themselves pinned down on a narrow beach with 100 foot cliffs above them. The reason for this was an uncharted current that swept the landing parties northwards in the dark.
On the northern end of Anzac Cove is another cemetery and a huge monument with a message from Ataturk which he made only nineteen years after the Gallipoli battles. It reads:
THOSE HEROES THAT SHED THEIR BLOODAND 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 BOSUM
AND ARE IN PEACE.
HAVING LOST THEIR LIVES IN THIS LAND THEY HAVE BECOME OUR SONS TOO.
While we were there we had a half hour break so I took the opportunity to have a swim in the warm, clear water of Anzac Cove. Back in the dolmüs again we drove up to Lone Pine Cemetery where the names of all of the Australian soldiers killed at Gallipoli, more than 4700, are and where the youngest soldier to be killed, a 17 year old, is buried. Linda and an Australian girl laid a wreath on the monument and another Australian guy read a short prayer.
From Lone Pine we drove up to Chunuk Bair, the ultimate objective of the Allied forces because to control the heights of Chunuk Bair was to control the whole Peninsula. It was here that one of the cruelest and certainly the most decisive moments of the campaign took place. When the ANZAC forces landed, several units managed to penetrate quite a long way inland, routing the Turks as they went.
Meanwhile, a young Turkish officer, Mustafa Kemal, had led his forces up the Eastern side of the ridge to find out what had happened, as all radio communication had stopped working. Leaving his force in cover, Kemal and a handful of officers made their way to the top of Chunuk Bair and there they were met by the retreating Turkish soldiers hotly pursued by Australian troops. Kemal ordered them to stand in fight while he sent a runner back to bring his soldiers and thus they held the heights of Chunuk Bair. it is said that at the moment he ordered the fleeing Turks to stand that Kemal began his amazing career which would lead him to found the modern Turkish state and earn the name Attatürk which means “Father of the Turks”
At Chunuk Bair is the monument to all the New Zealand soldiers killed and all their names are inscribed. There is also a huge Turkish monument and some of the Turkish trenches have been reconstructed. Our last stop was Quinn’s Post, the farthest inland that the Allied forces penetrated and held. Only a few yards separated the two armies for 9 months and behind Quinn’s Post, Shrapnel Gully led steeply down to Anzac Cove. There is a small cemetery there and Hussein told us a story about a Turkish soldier who was bringing water up for the troops and became lost, eventually falling into Allied hands. He said that the water was a present from his commanding officer and the Aussies gave him some whiskey which he refused to drink being a Muslim. The Aussies said “you are not afraid of our guns but you are afraid of our whiskey” so the young Turk downed it and was instantly pissed. When he finally returned to his own lines the young Turkish soldier was unable to say where he had been or what had happened to his water as he was still drunk!
Back at Kilitbahir we waited for a ferry to take us back across the 1300 yard stretch of water that almost 500,000 young men had died for, half of them in vain. The only redeeming feature of that abortive campaign was that the Russians never got their hands on Turkey which may have been a bigger disaster and later years than the Gallipoli campaign was. Later, when we were back in Çanakkale, we spent the rest of the day relaxing.