Tuesday, September 2, 2008

25 April 1915 - Gallipoli

Today I was in Gallipoli. I learnt a lot of things that I never knew, which I guess is the point of traveling, but at the same time it sometimes makes me feel like I should know more about the history of my own country. I don't even know where to start. Gallipoli was quite a haunting experience because I stood there looking at the most amazing view of ANZAC Cove but my head was going back to April 25, 1915 and thinking of the onset of slaughter that would begin that day.

4.30am and the Australian and NZ troops were heading to a certain spot on the coast but the current swept them 2km away from their intended destination so when they reached land, instead of reaching land that had easy terrain they got land that had steep cliffs up to 800m high. Being brave Aussies and Kiwis the 2000 soldiers attempted to climb up these steep cliffs - but even though they caught the 200 Turkish soliders unaware, the Turks had a huge advantage because they were up the top of the cliffs so could easily see their targets - hence how on that day many Aussies and Kiwis (ANZACs) lost their lives in a pointless battle.

This battle went on for approximately 290 days (I can't remember the exact number) with a quarter of a million British allies lives lost and a quarter of a million Turkish soliders lives lost.

The whole war was pointless because neither side achieved its objective. For the British side, this was to secure a path to Russia which allowed better access to the country and to have more of a open area to attack Germany (once again, details semi-fuzzy and this is where the 'I wish I were smarter and could retain facts better' side of me kicks in) but it was something about Russia. Mind you, Russia were not even a part of this... it was Britain trying to show their alliance to Russia I guess. Whatever way you look at it, both sides failed miserably which made me question why Gallipoli was even such a big deal... as if reading my mind one of the people on my tour started to explain... he said that even though neither side 'won', both sides fought damn hard and as well as they could for what they believed was right. The Turks managed to gain control of the troop that was 10 times the size of theirs even though they were caught unaware. The Aussie and Kiwi troops never gave up no matter how hard things got.

On the documentary we watched it mentioned how soldiers in the trench would die and automatically the next soldiers in line would go and fill their spaces without hesitation - even though they knew they would face the same fate. They knew they would die for their country and they accepted it. It was heartbreaking to hear some of the letters that the troops wrote to their loved ones back home because they didn't know if they would ever see them again but the letters that we heard read on the documentary the men seemed to remain so strong.

Nothing could prepare me for the images of what went on in the war though... barbed wire in the water, shrapnel and wounds... imagining the cries of pain of the injured soldiers.... in the trenches that the soldiers dug out we were told that there were 3m deep of bodies in there. Even on the ocean shore there were bodies scattered everywhere and you could not even see the sand... to get anywhere you had to walk over dead bodies. With dead bodies also came flies and disease. Many soldiers got sick from the stench and could not eat. They also had diseases like typhoid, diahorrea, etc.

What amazed me was how they climbed up the steep hills and through the shrubs. It would not have been easy. They have to be such brave people and they do deserve to be commemorated because even though I disagree with why they were at war they were fighting with a passion that ran deep.

So, back to my point which I think I skipped - ANZAC Day and Gallipoli is to commemorate ALL the soldiers who lost their lives that day - British, Australian, New Zealand, Turkish - because towards the end the ANZACs and Turks were giving each other gifts and passing on messages to each other - whilst still fighting - but out of a horrible war came the friendship of these countries. Their land is scattered with the remains of our bodies - and there was a memorial that basically stated something along the lines of -we are your mother now because you have lost your lives on our land and now we will keep you in peace- which I think is sweet because it is I guess part forgiveness from the Turks and acceptance for that which has happened.

So much is running through my head and I can't be bothered re-reading this to check if it makes sense and flows so if this is all over the place, sorry! I will add more if and when I remember but feel free to comment and add information for me because mine is quite scattered!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Simone, I found your piece interesting and touching. I am going to be travelling to Gallipoli with my partner in Nov 2008, and looking forward to it enormously. My Aussie grandfather fought in Gallipoli, Field Ambulance, he was one of the lucky ones who came home of course. I have read how recent roadworks have disturbed some of the area, which is sad. I am sure I will find the experience of visiting the area very moving, as have many Aussies before me