Cuba - More than old cars
This morning we were met at the hotel by our tour guides driver who took us to the ferry for our intercontinental trip across the Dardanelles. This was a private organised specially for us without any additional cost. The plan was to visit Gallipoli, have lunch and then get on a public bus to go to Istanbul. At Istanbul we would be met by someone from the tour company and taken to our hotel. We ended up being put on an earlier bus to Istanbul (2:30pm instead of 4pm) as the tour
guide had been asked to do another Gallipoli tour in the afternoon. Although there was room for this to unravel it all went very smoothly. The double decker bus was very comfortable with each seat having portable screens to watch movies and TV or listen to music. Free drinks and snacks were handed out during the 5½ trip and leg room was better than in a plane.
Although the following account is only about New Zealanders and Australians, the British (England, Ireland, Scotland), Newfoundland, French and Ghurkas were all part of the Allies in the Gallipoli campaign. First stop was ANZAC (Australia and NZ Army Corps) Cove. This was the landing area for the NZ and Australian troops on April 25th 1915. The cove was smaller than we had expected – only 600 meters long. It became the main base for the ANZACs for the 8 months of the Battle of Gallipoli (called the Battle of Canakkale for the Turkish). This beach was always within range of the frontline and Turkish guns which were only 1km away. On ANZAC Day in 1985 the Turkish government officially recognised the cove as “ANZAC Cove”.
There were many battles during the Gallipoli campaign as each side tried to gain the high ground. The Allies managed to gain some of the high ground but never for any significant period of time as the Ottomans fought back. A number of the battles that the Australians and Kiwis were involved in were to divert the enemies attention to allow the French and English who were both north and south of ANZAC Cove to have an offensive to gain ground. None of it worked – lambs to the slaughter.
There is one French cemetery, 31 Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries containing mainly dead from Britain, Australia, New Zealand, India and Newfoundland, and over 50 memorials, grave sites and cemeteries dedicated to the Turkish casualties. We visited a number of grave sites and 3 war memorials – NZ, Australian and Turkish.
The NZ memorial is at Chunuk Bair. Capturing Chunuk Bair by the British and NZ forces was the only success of the campaign for the Allies. It proved untenable and was only able to be held for a few days. By the time the Wellington Brigade was relieved 711 of 760 strong force had become casualties. At this memorial we found reference to Bruce's great uncle (W Goldstone) who had fought and lost his life in the battle.
The Australian memorial is at the location of the Battle of Lone Pine. The distance between the trenches of the two lines was about 80m. The Australians had dug some tunnels within about 40m of the Ottomans to enable to advance after a heavy bombardment with minimal casualties. The Ottomans had boarded over their trenches which made it difficult to penetrate but the Australians were eventually successful. The Ottomans soon counter attacked and the battle went on for 3 days before they withdrew. This withdrawal had its repercussions on the battle at Chunuk Bair as the withdrawing Ottomans were redirected to that other battle. A stalemate eventually developed on the Gallipoli peninsula which lasted until the evacuation in December 1915 although sporatic fighting occurred.
The final memorial was the Turkish Çanakkale Martyrs' Memorial opened in 1960 to commemorate the service of over 250,000 Ottoman soldiers. The graves of 600 soldiers were moved near to the site in 1992. There was a museum under the memorial. We did not visit this as there were literally thousands of Turks visiting the site (being a Sunday) and we had visited a museum prior to driving to the peninsula.
We visited some of the trenches in addition to the war memorials previously mentioned. At one place the trenches at the frontline were only 8 metres apart. Each side was known to exchange items; for example cigarettes and cans of bully beef from the allies for dried apricots and bread from the Ottomans. They also used to have target shooting competitions, not at one another but at shovels or other items that one side would hold up. While the trenches have silted up and are less than a metre deep they would have been 2m deep at the time.
When the decision was made to withdraw it was done without loss of life and in many cases without the Ottomans even knowing it had happened. The Allies had set up guns which would continue to fire intermittently.
The combined daily death toll of Allies and Ottomans over the 8 months of the battle was 2,000 per day. This was from direct conflict and illness due to dysentry and other diseases.
This battle for Gallipoli was a defining moment for New Zealanders and Australians. They entered the battle to “fight for Mother England” but once in battle started to realise how different they were to the English. As NZ does not have an independence day it has been suggested that the date might be 25 April 1915. Others have suggested 1926 when NZ was recognised as a separate country in the League of Nations. No doubt it will be discussed for years to come.
This battle would also be a defining moment for Turkey. While the commanding officer for the Ottomans was a German the top Ottoman commander was Lt. Col. Mustafa Kemel who would later be known as Attaturk. In 1919 he and about 60 other officers of the battle would form the army to fight to reclaim the land that had been partitioned among the allies (Britain, France, Italy, Greece). They had some help (supply of arms) from the Soviet Union. This only happened because the Bolsheviks were now in power and the Czar, relation of King of England, was no
longer in power. After this war was won the Turkish Republic was proclaimed on October 29, 1923.
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 FAR AWAY 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.