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Tonielle's European Adventure "It's always better on holiday, so much better on holiday. That's why we only work when... we need the money." - Franz Ferdinand

Walking in the shoes of the Gallipoli ANZACS

TURKEY | Sunday, 18 October 2009 | Views [2890] | Comments [1]

I’ve always been fascinated and horrified by the story of the ANZACS of Gallipoli, and today I had the chance to relive the story on a tour of the battlefields in Gallipoli, Turkey.

Our tour guide Bülent is one of the best, (the Australian Government has booked him for ANZAC day 2010) and at our first stop, Kabatepe Museum, he explained the history of the battle and the events that lead up to and beyond the 25th April, 1915. The very general explanation was that the Allied forces objective was to conquer Turkey and its capital Istanbul to secure an ice-free sea supply route up the Dandanelles into the Black Sea to Russia and open another front against Germany and Austria-Hungary.

After an unsuccessful sea attempt by the British Navy, the British organised landings of the ANZACS on Brighton Beach, and figured it would be so easy that they would have captured that by breakfast, the Dandanelles by lunch, and be having dinner in Istanbul that evening. Instead, by an unknown error, the 20,000 ANZAC soldiers landed at ANZAC Cove, only one peak north of their intended landing spot. Here, they tried to gain ground, up high, soft cliff faces, while being held back by only 180 Turkish soldiers shooting at them from above.

The ANZACS only managed to gain 1km of ground, which neither side could advance from for the rest of the campaign. August 1915 was the last ditch attempt by the British, landing 20,000 British soldiers to the north, forcing the battle at The Nek (as seen in the last scene of Gallipoli the movie, with Mel Gibson in it) to take the Turkish attention away from the landing, however this failed to work also.

Eventually the Allied forces withdrew in December 1915, after almost nine months of battle in Gallipoli, with one of the most successful withdrawals in history, not loosing one soldier and tricking the Turkish into believing they were still there until they had all left.

An interesting side note – the Turkish commemorate two different dates of the Gallipoli battle than us, the 18th March 1915, when they fought off the British Navy, and 8th August when they won back Chunuk Bair (the highest land point and most strategic point of the area) from the New Zealander soldiers, forcing them back to their eventual withdrawal.

So, after our little history lesson, we visited some of the war memorials scattered throughout the battlefields of Gallipoli. The most moving for me being ANZAC Cove where the poem by Ataturk was posted (see below) and Lone Pine, which is the largest ANZAC memorial site. Just seeing all those tombstones and reading the messages from the families was moving, but what really got me was the ages of these men, most all under the age of 25. The legal age to enlist was 18 with your parents permission or 21, but many kids with the fantasized view of war lied about their age to enlist – the youngest soldier in the Gallipoli battle was just 14!!! The other thing that sticks with you is the same year on the tombstones – 1915 – over and over again.

During the tour we also had the chance to walk through old trenches that were still throughout the landscape, and really see how close these ememies were fighting each other. The smallest no-mans-land was at Johnston’s Jolly, and was no wider than the road that now winds through it. During the months of June and July when there was a lull in the battle, soldiers stationed here from both sides would throw each other tinned foods amongst other things to get some variety in their diet, and a respect formed from both sides. Apparently that was one of the ‘fun’ times during the battle, which is why that area is called Johnston’s Jolly.

I think that was another thing that stuck with me during my time there, was the respect that each side had for one another. There are stories of soldiers from either side helping the injured enemy – one in particular saw an Australian soldier being hit in no-mans-land, and calling out for help, but the other Australians couldn’t help him because they would be killed trying to retrieve him. A Turkish soldier climbed over the trench to the no-mans-land with a white flag, and carried the Australian over to their trench, and then walked back to his trench. In how many battles in the wars have you heard of stories like that?

So at the end of six hours, we had covered most of the 20-something ANZAC memorials around Gallipoli, and also had the chance to visit one of two Turkish memorials there. These are only a recent addition to the battlefields (the ANZAC memorials have been there since the 1930s) and only happened because of the growing number of Turkish people visiting the area. There are still many Turkish flags over the landscape, marking burial sites for the soldiers that are yet to get a memorial.

The most interesting thing that I learnt was that although the common reason behind the ANZAC failure at Gallipoli was landing at the wrong spot, I now don’t believe that that was the case. After the failure of the British Navy in March, the Turks knew that they would try for the Dandanelles again and knew that Brighton Beach would be a likely spot for the enemy to land – it being a relatively flat path to the river. Which means it was heavily defended at the time of the ANZAC Cove landing, and the reason why only 180 soldiers were defending that area.

The Gallipoli battle in 1915, really gave birth to two things – the ANZAC digger and the respect that the world now has for our soldiers, and the Turkish as being a formidable and respected country.

Photos: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2021447&id=219300161&l=7f283bdac9

Tags: anzacs, ecebat, gallipoli, history, turkey, war memorials, world war one

Comments

1

What an amazing experience! The story is amazing and how they had so much respect for each other is incredible. Look forward to the next travel adventure xo

  Natalie Nov 7, 2009 7:01 AM

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