I have been traveling in Turkey since February and in April decided to head to Gallipoli with 10,000 other people for what is known as Anzac Day.
For those who don’t know ANZAC was the name given to the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps soldiers who landed at the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey early on the morning of 25 April 1915 during the First World War. As a result, one day in the year has involved the whole of Australia, New Zealand and Turkey in ceremonies of remembrance, gratitude and national pride for all the men and women who have fought and died in all wars. That day is ANZAC Day – 25 April.
So I managed to persuade me Turkish boyfriend to come with me and off to Gallipoli we went. After catching a bus and a 5 hour drive we arrived at Gallipoli. We entered the site which was guarded by the Turkish military with all kinds of machine guns which was a bit scary to start the day with. During the tour of Gallipoli we saw many of the trenches and walked around some of the 31 memorial sites at Gallipoli for the ANZACS. We visited The Nek which is where the final scene in the movie Gallipoli was filmed and listened to stories about ANZAC soldiers jumping into the trenches shouting out “Make room fellows. My mate is about to go over and if he goes, then so do I”. We then went up to Lone Pine which is the main Australian Cemetery/ Memorial where there are actually 7000 bodies from both sides buried. The trenches are so close that either side couldn’t fire their guns, so it was hand to hand combat using fists and bayonets.
The Dawn Service was amazing. Try imaging roughly 10,000 people sleeping outside on the beach all wrapped up in sleeping bags it was just a funny sight but we managed to get a good spot on the grass near the stage and the evening started at about 8:30pm the night before. Many stories were told about the ANZACs and the Turks and songs were played from that era played by bands. Just before the Dawn Services started a Kiwi played a song with a 3piece accompaniment which set off a light show on the Sphinx and surrounding cliffs which was just the most haunting experience. I’ve never heard 10,000 people just be silent, you could of heard a pin drop.
The Dawn Service itself was very somber with the National Anthems being sung for each country, they also showed Services from around the world which was great. After the Services finished we walked up to Lone Pine which is about 2.5Km away, I was told that this would take 90 minutes , it probably would of if the other 9,999 weren’t going the same way. Anyway after about 2.5 hours we got to Lone Pine me being dragged up the hill. We decided to head to the Turkish ceremony which was right up the top of the hill another 50 minute walk. The Turkish service was lovely not that I could understand much of it and I must have been the only non Turkish person in there but they gave me a flag which was a nice touch.
After the Services finished we had to catch our bus out of Gallipoli this sounds easy but first you have to wait for the VIP’s to leave then they let one bus in at a time. The services finish at around 11:45am and I don’t think we managed to get on our bus until 15:00 but the mood was great giving the fact that everyone we traveled with had been up since 08:30am the day before and had, had very little sleep. So we headed back to Istanbul which was a very quiet drive with everyone reflecting on where they had just been and most people sleeping.
For anyone who has traveled to Anzac Cove, either for Anzac Day or whilst they are passing through Turkey, they will appreciate what I am talking about. Standing there at the base of Anzac Cove at 4am looking up at what the soldiers did all those years ago sent a chill down my spine. When you walk around the grave sites and read the inscriptions can you truly understand what I am talking about.
If you have not been to Anzac Cove….make plans to.
Those heroes that shed their blood
And lost their lives…
You are now living in the soil of a friendly country,
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
Here in this country of ours…
You, the mothers,
Who sent their sons from faraway 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. (1934)