Lest We Forget..

Trip Start May 02, 2006
Trip End Mar 02, 2007

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Flag of Turkey  ,
Thursday, July 13, 2006

Greetings from Gallipoli.

From an Australian and New Zealand perspective I guess there's not much that needs to be said for this particular part of the world. However for some of my non antipodean friends I'll run through the historical stuff briefly (or not so).

The landing at Anzac Cove was part of the amphibious invasion of the Gallipoli peninsula by British (inc. Aus, NZ & India) and French forces on April 25, 1915. The landing, north of Gaba Tepe (now Anzac Cove) on the Aegean coast of the peninsula, was made by soldiers of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs) and was the first significant combat of the war (or any war for that matter) for both countries. The purpose of the invasion was to neutralize the Turkish forts that controlled the passage of the Dardanelles straits. The landing went awry when the boats strayed off course in the pre-dawn dark and what was planned as a swift operation became a protracted and bloody eight-month struggle. In that period the frontline of the Anzac battlefield remained little changed from the ground captured on the first day of the landing, a space less than square 2km's in size and home to over 20,000 men.

Following the failure of the August 1915 offensive, the Gallipoli campaign entered a hiatus while the future direction was debated. The persistent lack of progress was finally making an impression in the UK as contrasting news of the true nature of the campaign was smuggled out by journalist Keith Murdoch (Rupert's Grandfather) discrediting General Hamilton's (Commander of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force) performance. The prospect of evacuation was raised on October 11 but Hamilton resisted the suggestion, fearing the damage to British prestige. He was finally dismissed as commander shortly afterwards and replaced by Lieutenant-General Sir Charles Monro.

Evacuation of 14 divisions in winter in proximity to the enemy would be difficult and heavy losses were expected. The untenable nature of the Allied position was made apparent when a heavy storm struck on November 27 and lasted for three days. There followed a blizzard at Suvla in early December. The rain flooded trenches, drowning soldiers and washing the unburied corpses into the lines. The following snow killed more men from exposure.

Ironically the evacuation was the greatest Allied success of the campaign. Suvla and Anzac were to be evacuated in late December, the last troops leaving before dawn on December 20. Troop numbers had been progressively reduced since December 7 and cunning ruses were performed to fool the Turks and prevent them discovering the Allies that were departing. At Anzac, the troops would maintain utter silence for an hour or more until the curious Turks would venture out to inspect the trenches, whereupon the Anzacs would open fire. As the numbers in the trenches were thinned, rifles were rigged to fire by water dripped into a pan attached to the trigger.

The Gallipoli campaign is famous for one other reason. It's where Mustafa Kemel cut his teeth as an infantry commander and famously repulsed one of the early Anzac thrusts through the hills (single handedly if you believe some of the hype). For those that have never been to Turkey, Mustafa Kemel now known as Ataturk or literally 'Father of Turkey' is quite simply the most sincerely revered human being you're ever likely to encounter. His likeness is anywhere and everywhere, from every coin and note, buses, airports, above the dunny, literally everywhere. But hey, he looks like Dr Smith from Lost in Space so who cares.

Anyway, my A.D.D. kicked in again. So Gallipoli's something to behold. I guess from an Australian perspective it's a place of immense psychological value. In Australia, the so called ANZAC Spirit tends to capture the idea of an Australian national character, which they say was forged at Gallipoli, whilst the landing at Anzac Cove is often described as the moment of birth of Australia's nationhood a notion that our guide touched on more than a few times. I'm not so sure given we still fly the horrible union jack as part of our flag but again, that's just me.

We loved our day on the fields of Gallipoli, it's a powerful and moving experience that every Australian should encounter at least once in their life. As Australians we don't have many spots around the world that we can make a pilgrimage to and as such we both feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to have made it as part of our honeymoon, a moment we'll treasure forever.

The photos are Lone Pine (the main Australian memorial) heavy so I must apologise to my Kiwi friends but that's just how the day panned out for us.

That's about it for Gallipoli.


Nath and Kat.
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