The WWI battle of Gallipoli lasted from April of 1915 to January 1916. This failed British and French campaign to capture Istanbul and acquire a sea route to Russia was one of the greatest victories of the Turks and their General Mustafa Kemal (later Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey). The sacrifices of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) during this campaign are remembered on ANZAC day. -ed.
Holiday with History by Kellie Parry
Mention Gallipoli or ANZAC in Australia and you’ll see how patriotic we can be. Theres not one Australian who has forgotten the men and women who fought for this great country we live in. ANZAC Day here is always a big event. Firstly, it’s a national public holiday. A typical ANZAC day usually starts with a dawn service to honor those who lost their lives. Then the day is full of traditional Aussie activities such as drinking beer in the pub to barbecues, cricket matches and endless games of Two Up (a gambling game that is only legal to play on ANZAC Day). So when I found myself heading to Turkey I thought it would be very un-Australian of me no to go to Gallipoli. I just had no idea how much it would affect me.
I jumped on the bus and we headed for Canakkale which is the base for all tours to Gallipoli and Troy. Canakkale is situated on the narrowest part of the Dardanelles and, even if you are not heading to Gallipoli, is still worth a visit. After a quick breakfast (the bus trip took all night) we made our way to Troy for a few hours. As I walked through the rubble I was constantly distracted by the images of a buff, semi naked Brad Pitt as Achilles, which kept popping into my mind. Finally we were on our way to ANZAC Cove.
Almost immediately a subdued feeling came over the tour. Apart from an older American couple the tour was full of Australians. Some of them had lost grandfathers here while the others knew the story of Gallipoli by heart. To finally see where such a tragedy occurred was a surreal feeling. As we drove through the winding roads past endless statues and memorials I was overcome with a great sadness.
Our guide told us stories of the war and how it all started. He explained that Turkey had become an unwilling participant in war as an operation was underway to capture the Ottoman capital of Istanbul and open up a sea route to Russia. He also told stories of Australian and Turkish troops sharing food and cigarettes in the trenches before been given orders to kill each other. Each story he told broke my heart just a little bit more as he painted a picture of a camaraderie between the fighting countries.
We drove to the beach where the Aussie troops were supposed to land. If they had landed here, history would be a lot different. Then we continued a couple of miles around the corner to see the beach where they did land. Standing there looking at the beach I wondered at the fact that one simple mistake had cost so many lives.
It’s a complete credit to Turkey that they have not turned Gallipoli into a money making tourist venture. Sure there are endless tours to Gallipoli, but they have not lined the roads with restaurants and tacky souvenir shops. Apart from a road, the area is as vast as it was in 1915. We wondered along walking in the trenches where soldiers used to live. I tried to imagine what it would be to live like this for months on end and once again I felt like crying. Bits of barbed wire still stick out of the ground and old wooden doors marked the entrance to yet another trench.
Our guide told a story of a Turkish soldier that used to spend his nights in the trenches singing songs. This kept the troops from both sides happy. After being given orders to advance, there was a day of fighting. That night there was silence in the trenches. There was no singing. The Australian troops were devastated at the thought that it was they who had killed him. After this story I actually had tears in my eyes. I wasn’t sure I could hold on for much longer.
After ANZAC Cove and the trenches we drove to the memorials. We visited the Australian, New Zealand and finally the Turkish memorial. Each one had rows and rows of graves that seemed at odd’s with the beautiful coastal environment they were situated in. Wild poppies grew in blood red among the headstones. We visited the Lone Pine cemetery and wandered through reading the headstones. By now no one in the group was speaking. We were all lost in our own thoughts, rethinking the history of our home. If it wasn’t for these brave soldiers where would we be? Would Australia have been the same? How do you thank someone who died so many years ago?Google+