Anzac Day in Gallipoli Experience

Gallipoli Travel Blog

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I had only been in London a few weeks when I saw an ad for Anzac Day tours of Gallipoli. I booked it 6 months in advance and managed to get 5 others to join me. I had heard great things about visiting Gallipoli and paying respect to the fallen soldiers but I didn't know a lot about it all. In the past week I received the best history lesson of my life and strongly recommend the trip to any Australian lucky enough to be in a position to do so.

We had a Turkish guide who did well to explain the history of the war and the stories that go along with it. He told us about the soccer game that was played between the two enemies in December 1915 when the war was basically over and neither side wanted to fight on. He told us about the Turkish soldier who ventured into the wrong camp on his donkey when delivering water.
He gestured that the water was a gift from his commander and the Aussies laughed, took the water and sent him back with some candy for his commander. There was the story of the Turkish soldier who walked into the firing line to pick up a deceased British soldier and carry him to his mates in the British trench. The shocked soldiers from either side refrained from shooting as he did so. There is now an impressive statue of that scene. Our Turkish guide described it as the most gentlemanly fought war ever.

We learned of the blunders by the Brits that led to the Anzac's landing on the wrong beach and rather than attacking on a flat surface they tried to capture an area with a steep cliff that allowed the Turks to repel them from the comfort of the top of the mountain.
That's not to say that the Turks had it easy. They lost many men as well, but inevitably they won this battle.

Importantly, we learned that we were the invaders acting under British instruction and the Turks were there protecting their land. The soldiers of the time bore no grudge to the Turkish people (in fact they were total strangers) and it is wonderful that we can now visit these well maintained cemetaries and museums in peace and with no hard feelings against us.

We saw the battlefields where lives were lost, the beach that became home to Anzac soldiers for 9 months and some trenches that in some cases were just 8 metres away from enemy trenches. We visited the museum that features artifacts collected over the years including bullets, grenades, uniforms, water bottles and even a shoe with part of a foot bone that was blown off the leg.
We visited cemetaries with headstones of those they could identify and memorial walls listing names of many others. We read diaries and letters that were written by soldiers to their families back home. We learned that many of them were young men who thought it would be an adventure and a chance to earn some money before returning home to Australia.

Anzac Cove is an amazing place. We were greeted with blue skies and a peaceful beach set amongst a cliff face with a petruding section nicknamed the Sphinx. At first it is hard to imagine that this was a battlefield and the scene of horrific death. But slowly the documentaries, stories and speeches allow you to paint the picture into the backdrop.

Anzac Day in Gallipoli is a sombre event. There is no alcohol allowed and the entertainment was toned down from recent years to set the right mood for the event. I read that from the 8000 people that made the pilgrimage, only 3 cans of alcohol were confiscated by the security guards. Everyone was there for the same reason and acted respectfully and friendly. We were on a bus of 40 and by the end of it we had spoken to most of the bus and sat down to meals with quite a few of them.

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photo by: scacos2006