Sunday, 20 April 2014

Also on Sunday 20 April: Chunuk Bair

Chunuk Bair is a hugely significant site for New Zealanders, just as Lone Pine is for the Australians. The New Zealand Service is held here on Anzac Day, after the service at Lone Pine. There are spectacular views in all directions; it is the highest point for miles around, and you can even see across to the Dardanelles - the place the Anzacs were aiming for, but never reached.

The battle of Sari Bair was fought here on 6-10 August 1915. Some of the NZ troops did reach the summit of Chunuk Bair but they were forced off by a Turkish counter attack.

Soldiers occupying a trench during the Gallipoli campaign
Probably soldiers of the Wellington Mounted Rifles, New Zealand Expeditionary Force, occupying a trench on Table Top, Gallipoli, during the night of August 6. 1915, in preparation for the attack on Chunuk Bair.Alexander Turnbull Library, Ref: 1/4-058131-F.  

This is what it looked like in 1918:
Chunuk Bair, Gallipoli peninsula, Turkey
Chunuk Bair, Gallipoli peninsula, Turkey, photographed December 1918, when the Canterbury Mounted Rifles returned to Gallipoli. Alexander Turnbull Library Ref PA1-o-169-16-1

Site of the proposed Chunuk Bair memorial, Gallipoli peninsula, Turkey
Unidentified group on the site of the proposed Chunuk Bair memorial, Gallipoli peninsula, circa 1918. Alexander Turnbull Library: Ref PAColl-7082-3

The memorial (one of the four memorials to commemorate NZ soldiers with no known grave) bears more than 850 names. The cemetery was made after the end of the war and contains 632 graves. Only 10 of those men could be identified. We remembered more NZ soldiers here, including the Statham brothers from Dunedin. 

The name of William Malone  commander of the Wellington Battalion, killed in the attack on Chunuk Bair - is recorded, as is that of a boy soldier from Palmerston North, Private Martin Persson of the Wellington Infantry Battalion; he died on 8 August, aged 17.

Baris told us that after Mecca, the second most visited place by Muslims is Gallipoli. And for the Turkish people (who don't call it the Gallipoli campaign, but the Canakkale war), the site of Chunuk Bair is one of the   most visited because as well as the NZ memorial, it contains the Ataturk Memorial to Kemal Ataturk. There were loads of buses coming and going, and rows of souvenir and food stalls. 

NZ Memorial and Ataturk Memorials, Chunuk Bair

This is the first place where we have been surrounded by other tourists, and nearly all of them were Turkish. We had a look around and gazed at the view but had to hurry back to the bus when we heard a thunderstorm in the distance.  The weather is so changeable that we have our red jackets on and off all day. Yesterday we were caught in a hailstorm and had to shelter under trees, but most of the time we've been out in brilliant sunshine. The changing weather conditions help us to realise what the troops had to endure, living outdoors with little shelter.    

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