Saturday, 22 February 2014

The Red Coats

Anzac Day, celebrated every year on April 25th, is a special day for New Zealanders and Australians. There are Anzac Day services held in communities large and small in both countries, but for many people, a trip to an Anzac Day service at Gallipoli is something very special.  

The Gallipoli Volunteer Program is run by Conservation Volunteers, the Australian Department of Veterans' Affairs and Veterans Affairs New Zealand. Since 2006, they have been taking a group of about 25 volunteers across to Turkey to help out at the Anzac Day services.

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I heard about the programme by chance last year. A friend gave a copy of my Anzac Day book to her friend Julie who had just been on the trip. Julie was coming to Wellington so we met up and later she sent me a copy of the diary notes that she had kept during her visit. Then I noticed a very small advert in the newspaper calling for applicants for the 2014 programme. There were a lot of applicants so I feel very lucky to have been selected.
Any visit to Gallipoli is a special one at whatever time of year, but many people want to be there for Anzac Day. 2014 marks the centenary of the start of World War One, not of the first Gallipoli landings. They happened on 25 April 1915, so next year there is a quota system because of the large numbers who  are expected to want to attend. Travel companies and cruise ships who are already advertising trips to Gallipoli for 2015 have had to make it clear that their passengers can only attend the service if they have got a place in the ballot.
This year there are 6 New Zealanders, 20 Australians and 4 leaders on the trip. It should be an amazing experience. We have a knowledgeable Turkish guide (Baris) who will give us an in-depth look at the peninsula. We also get to enjoy the company of others who are all interested – for various reasons - in the history of Gallipoli, and we have the very special privilege of helping out at the Anzac Day services.
What do we do?
I guess I will find out – basically we are there to provide assistance and support to visitors at the commemorative services at the Anzac Commemorative Site, Lone Pine and Chunuk Bair on 24th and 25th April. Thousands of people turn up for these services, so that means things like:
 welcoming
 conducting bus registrations
 providing information
 wrist banding visitors
 distributing information kits
 support to assisted mobility visitors
 distributing water
 assisting visitors with transition between services
 collecting surveys
 bus departures at end of services and
 any other duties in supporting visitors!

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