This was a very different day for me as I am usually irreverant about most things and take very few things in life too seriously. However, as all Australians & New Zealanders know the events of the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign are drummed into us annually from an early age and I knew I would be facing the day ahead with some solemnity. I was also curious as to how our young Turkish guide was going to handle the events of the day.
We started at the memorial overlooking the various landing beaches of the fateful day. He began by finding out where we were all from and we were surprised to find out that out of the 16 or so of us there was an elderly American couple. He then proceeded to make some light hearted banter to break-the-ice before showing us a map of the area and giving us an outline of the campaign.
Now of course I can’t say if everything he stated that day was true but he seemed to posess an encyclopaedic knowledge of the events. For each side he knew each local commanders’ name and precisely what time they attacked which objective and the result. He also told us many stories from both sides that have over time become legends. Some, like John Simpson & his donkey, I knew, others I didn’t.
We then moved on to Anzac Cove and I stood on the beach where the diggers landed and he pointed out landmarks in the skyline that can be seen as clearly today as in images he showed us from 1915, such as a rocky outcrop they nicknamed ‘the Sphynx’ because they had just come from Cairo. We then moved thru the various hills, valleys and ridges which had been nicely dotted with lawn cemetaries and memorials, all the while our guide was pointing out various objectives of different groups.
I was never going to go into any detail here but it is important for those who don’t know, that the campaign lasted around 8 months with a total loss of life of around 200,000…about 100,000 each side….that’s around a 1,000 per day. At various times the opposing trenches were only around 12m from each other.
Our final stop was at Lone Pine and by now I admit I had become quite emotional and as the final telling of the tale was finished you just wish everyone was subjected to this one day syllabus in the futility of war.