Skirting the Sea of Marmara we officially start our journey by heading for Gallipoli to visit the Anzac Cemetery and the sites of the famous World War I battlefields on the European side of the Dardanelles.
Naturally being married to Jim I had heard of Gallipoli and knew that thousands of people flock to the site of Anzac Cove each year. The majority of these are Aussie or Kiwi patriots who view this place as a defining moment in their history. They come to commemorate the soldiers who lost their lives here and in Australia and New Zealand often refer to it as “Our Glorious Defeat”. It was also interesting to hear it from a Turks perspective as they speak in awe about General Mustafa Kemal, later known only as Ataturk and the founder of modern Turkey.
Brighton Beach, should have been the textbook place to carry out a strategic landing and move troops from the United Kingdom, France, India, Canada, Australian and New Zealand into hostile territory. However, this was not to be the case, poor communication led to troops landing on the wrong beach and essentially this was the beginning of the end with over 100,000 fatalities on both sides.
We then moved along to Lone Pine Cemetery and a sea of white gravestones. The graves all looked well maintained and all told similar stories of cherished sons dying for King and Country. Reading the inscriptions the reality became apparent as many of the fallen were teenagers. Gallipoli is an extremely moving place but it does make you wonder why some people bother to make the trip. A silly Australian woman in our group, the one who managed to upset everyone at one time or another asked where could she find her relation’s grave, when questioned further it seems he had fought in Vietnam! One thing I was not impressed with was the number of people sprawling over or in front of the graves taking selfies. In my opinion, it just showed lack of respect and even more lack of understanding.
The campaign lasted for 8 months and many of the battles were hard fought resorting to bayonet or hand-to-hand combat to gain just a few yards of territory. Out of the awful situation came amazing stories of humour, courage and inspiration from both sides. The opposing troops were close enough to yell at each other, they grew to respect each other and had a “gentleman’s agreement” to clear their dead, share cigarettes, swap food and even play football together.
The Turks used to throw over tobacco in return for paper, so both sides could smoke. Every night one Turkish solider walked between the trenches picking up tobacco and paper that fell in the middle. He was an icon to the ANZACs, who never shot him, until a new regiment moved in and killed him on sight.
Monuments are everywhere; the most poignant is a Turkish “Mehmet” carrying a wounded “Johnny” as a symbol of the brotherhood between their countries. This mutual respect was summed up beautifully in the now famous quote by Mustaf Kemal Ataturk in 1934 when he praised the bravery and fighting spirit of the ANZACs and said that they had become brothers to their Turkish counterparts.
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore, rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies and 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.
Later, a short ferry journey takes us to Canakkale. Stepping on to the ferry, we saw a small diorama that showed where the various regiments were. Someone on the coach (Oh yes it was our Australian lady friend) said in all seriousness, they must have played crazy golf when they weren´t fighting!!