Australian author and travel writer Malcolm Andrews makes a pilgrimage to Gallipoli
THE BIRTH OF THE ANZACS 100 YEARS AGO
THE TEMPERATURE is hovering around 37 degrees Centigrade (over the century mark in the Fahrenheit scale). But despite the heat you shiver. The spirit of ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) has affected you – just as it does the hundreds of thousands of folk from ‘Down Under’ who visit Gallipoli in Turkey each and every year.
The shivers and goosebumps are just part of the effect as you walk quietly past the neat white headstones in the small Ari Burnu war cemetery on a promontory between Anzac Cove and North Beach. Several highlight the story of the ill-fated World War I campaign that saw thousands of Australians and New Zealanders perish. The headstones regularly include inscriptions to the effect ‘Went away as a boy, died as a man’. Kids just 17 and 18, thrown by out-of-touch generals onto the narrow beaches as little more than cannon fodder.
We are in a tour group off the boutique cruise vessel SeaDream I. Most of those in the mini-bus that ferries us from battle site to battle site are Australians. But, strangely there are others, too.
The American couple who had studied the life and times of Winston Churchill and wanted to see first hand the site of his greatest folly – a campaign that cost him his job as First Lord of the Admiralty in the British cabinet. Then there was a SeaDream officer, who had been taught about the bravery of the ANZACs at school in Norway. I wonder how many Australian schools would teach anything about Norway, let alone the deeds of the country’s soldiers in a failed campaign.
The first Australian pilgrimages to Gallipoli came in the 1920s a decade after the Gallipoli campaign that was launched pre-dawn on April 25, 1915. Parents of the dead and former soldiers who had experienced the hell of the eight months there went to pay their respects to the fallen heroes.
One of the latter was Australian Prime Minister Stanley Bruce, who as Captain Bruce had fought at Gallipoli. An old T-model Ford helped ferry him around in 1924. But there was none of the bureaucratic camp followers that trail behind modern Prime Ministers when they visit ANZAC Cove.
Our mini-bus, with a Turkish guide, takes us from one historic site to another. At Lone Pine we see the memorial wall where the names of more than 4900 Australian and New Zealand servicemen whose bodies were never found or identified are inscribed. The cemetery at Lone Pine lies on top of 60 metres of ‘no man’s land’ where the ANZACs fought a bloody battle for five days, during which time 2273 ANZACs and more than 4000 Turks were killed. The lone pine on the battle field eventually died, but seeds had been taken back to Australia from which commemorative trees were grown. And a seed from one those trees went back to Gallipoli for the impressive pine that stands in the grounds of the cemetery today. Seven Australians won the Victoria Cross at Lone Pine – including five on the one day, August 9.
As we move around the area, names that are familiar to us are mentioned by our guide. Quinn’s Post. The Nek. Hill 60. Courtney’s Post (scene of the battle in which Lance-Corporal Albert Jacka became the first of nine Australians to win the Victoria Cross during the ill-fated campaign). We look with amazement at the remains of trenches – at times just 10 metres apart – where enemy soldiers exchanged not only conversation but also cigarettes and food (thrown from one trench to the other during lulls in the shooting). It is hard to visualise these enemies becoming ‘friends’ for just a moment or two. At the Gallipoli museum, the shivers return when we see the skull of a soldier, with a bullet embedded between his eyes. Next to the skull is a muddied, mutilated boot, with the shattered remains of the bones of an ankle and foot still inside. And we wonder why, a century later, politicians are still sending young men off to war. Our tour shows the conflict from the perspective of both sides.
At Conkbayiri (Chunuk Bair), scene of one of the great battles, we gaze at the giant statue of the Turkish commander Mustafa Kemal (later to become Ataturk or ‘Father of Turks’, the first president of the Turkish republic) and read on the plaque about his lucky escape. On August 10 he was shot in the chest but survived because a pocket watch took the full force of the bullet. It is significant that the New Zealand Memorial at Gallipoli is only metres from the huge bronze statue – no more than the distance between many of the trenches during the fighting of 1915.
SeaDream Yacht Club has created a half-dozen-plus unique opportunities this year to combine a sailing aboard the world’s most-highly-rated boutique passenger vessels, SeaDream I or SeaDream II with a pilgrimage to Gallipoli for the 100th Anniversary Year of ANZAC. The voyages – ranging from seven to 12 nights in duration –all start or end in Istanbul. Five are to or from Athens, and one of 12-days to Venice.
All sailings will have a day at Kepez in Turkey for an optional 4.5hr tour to the Gelibou (Gallipoli) National Park led by expert guides brought in from Istanbul by SeaDream Yacht Club, and will include the 1915 ANZAC landing site in Anzac Cove, Ari Burnu and Johnston’s Jolly Cemeteries, Lone Pine Memorial, Chunuk Bair’s ANZAC and Turkish trenches, and the Kabatepe Military Museum.
For full itineraries and sailing dates for these seven unique ANZAC 100th Anniversary Year sailings, see travel agents or visit www.seadream.com.