Tuesday 15 July 2014

Applications open!

Want to apply as a Gallipoli Volunteer for 2015? Applications have just opened!

You can find out more on the Conservation Volunteers page of Program notes, and that's us - the wonderful Gallipoli Volunteers 2014 team - in the photo!! - taken at Lone Pine I think. (Any of the GV2014 team are welcome to correct me!)

As the program says - this is an amazing experience that provides volunteers with an opportunity not just to attend, but to be involved in the Anzac Day commemorative services.

Applications close on 27 August 2014.

Wednesday 4 June 2014

Going to Gallipoli?

Since being back in New Zealand, it's been great to hear from different people who've said they enjoyed reading this blog while I was away. I'm glad that all the technological challenges were met and overcome, and I managed to find time to record what we were doing each day (or most days!)

Gallipoli is such a special place and I feel as if the landscape has lodged in my heart now. It was also special to share the experience with the Red Coats of 2014, an amazing bunch!!

If you have got a place in the ballot to visit Gallipoli for Anzac Day 2015 - congratulations! You will have an unforgettable time and you can read about what to expect (and keep up to date with news) on this New Zealand Government Gallipoli 2015 site.

For the Aussies, there is a similar site here.

If anyone is interested in applying for the Gallipoli Volunteer Programme for 2015, you can read about it on the Conservation Volunteers Australia site.

Sunset at Anzac Cove, 24 April 2014

Tuesday 20 May 2014

Not the only ones

We weren't the only ones having an amazing experience at Gallipoli - here is a lovely blog post by Rebecca Nelson, a New Zealand singer who travelled to Turkey with the New Zealand Defence Force Band. It was Rebecca who sang the New Zealand national anthem at the dawn service and she was also part of the group that sang at Chunuk Bair. It's lovely to read about some other people who also visited many of the same battle sites and cemeteries, bonded together as a close-knit group and felt sometimes overwhelmed by the emotional impact of such a special place.  


Sunday 11 May 2014

Home again

Today it's four weeks exactly since I set off on the way to Gallipoli. It must have been one of the most intense four weeks of my life, full of new sights, new experiences and new friends (and plenty of onboard movies!)

Now I'm sitting at my desk at home, watching the dawn service and Chunuk Bair Anzac service on Maori TV. It almost seems impossible to believe I was actually there, but it's quite true - there I am, about 40 mins in on the Chunuk Bair service (and about 20 mins before the rain arrived.)

Sir Jerry Mateparae, Governor General of NZ, gave a memorable and thoughtful address at both services. I especially like what he said at the dawn service (at about 27 mins): how this time next year, people will be focused on the events of exactly 100 years ago as the first troops landed early in the morning of 25 April 1915, and the Turkish troops up on the hills braced themselves to defend their homeland. This year, he said, we can still reflect on that, but "in the space before the centenary begins", we can also remember the peace that was there 99 years ago before war descended. That peace was something that came through the dawn service, in the sound of muted birdsong and the waves on the beach, and in the crescent moon and glittering stars above, and the line of the hills silhouetted against the blue-black sky.  

"When we remember our brave forebears, we pay them the honour they deserve. It is also a time for reflection on war and its impact, and it is a chance to enlighten new generations about the events that shaped their world, and to encourage them to strive for peace."

He closed by quoting the Ode in Maori: 
I te hekenga atu o te ra,
Tae noa ki te aranga mai i te ata,
Ka maumāhara tonu tātou ki a rātou.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.
I also appreciated the tribute he paid to the Turkish people, "our most gracious hosts".

You can read Sir Jerry's speech at the dawn service here, and his speech at Chunuk Bair here.  

Thanks to Maori TV for great coverage of the event.

Sunday 4 May 2014

Katherine Mansfield in Menton

Menton is a little town in the south of France, very close to the Italian border. Many New Zealanders would know that Katherine Mansfield spent some time there in the last few years of her life - although I didn't realise that it was such a short time (and such a short life, after all) - she arrived in January 1920, spent intervals in England in Switzerland and was dead by 1923.

KM standing in the garden at the Villa Isola Bella (1920)
She went there because she was sick with tuberculosis, then called consumption, and the only cure the doctors could offer was to escape England's damp climate and go somewhere warmer. The reason Menton became so popular and well known - for invalids, especially - was due to an English doctor. Dr James Henry Bennet was also suffering from consumption and came to Menton in 1859. He credited its sunshine and dry air for curing him, and wrote a book called Winter in the south of Europe (1861) in which he praised its beautiful gardens, full of orange and lemon trees, and its welcoming society. People flocked there and created a small English community, with an English church and English grocer; soon there were hotels, balls, and everything to attract tourists.

Many writers and artists have loved this part of the south of France, but I didn't know that W B Yeats died there. In 1938, he came with his wife to stay in a hotel in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, the next small town along the coast. He died there in January 1939 and was buried in the town's cemetery up on the hill. The war intervened so his remains couldn't be returned to Ireland until 1948, by which time it took some detective work to identify exactly where his grave was.

Katherine loved Menton, and she adored Isola Bella, a villa on the side of a steep hill, not far from the Menton Garavan railway station. She said about Menton: "I love it as I've never loved any place but my home." The villa is now privately owned, and the KM room is the basement part of it,with a small garden and a bathroom around the side. It's not far at all from where Mandy and Brian are staying - down one road, up another one and under the railway bridge.The same train line runs below Mandy and Brian's flat, which makes a nice connection between the two places.

Just as you can’t go to Gallipoli without remembering the men who were there 99 years ago, so here in Menton, you try and picture KM looking out at these views or walking these streets. At dawn when the buildings in the old town glow in the early morning light, or in the evening when the sunset colours are pretty but muted (like the pastel shades of the houses) and the air is still and clear, like Wellington on a good day, you can’t help wondering what she was thinking: did she feel far from home, or did she feel at home? Did it remind her somehow of NZ – the houses perched on cliffs, the blue sea, the sunsets, the wide sky?

Saturday 3 May 2014

(Not quite Gallipoli, but) Menton

Warm and grateful thanks to Mandy Hager (current recipient of the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship) and Brian for looking after me so well in Menton - you can read more about their experiences of settling into French life on Mandy's blog - the good parts, as well as the more challenging bits!

The airport bus from Nice gives a brilliant introduction to this part of the French Riviera; on the motorway as far as Monaco, then hugging the cliffs above the sparkling Mediterranean, winding through small towns and villages, and streets that seem even narrower than Wellington ones. 

We spent the first afternoon wandering round the old part of Menton, all cobbled courtyards, steep lanes and pastel coloured houses with shutters and rows of washing hanging from the windows.

Dark clouds started to gather as we explored the cemetery – final resting place of many who must have come, as Katherine Mansfield did, to seek a cure for consumption; some inscriptions are in English, others in Russian or other European languages, and many of those buried there were born elsewhere and died young. Other graves were family plots, some looking sadly abandoned, with weeds sprouting amidst cracked concrete. (William Webb Ellis, founder of the game of rugby, gets a statue as well as a grave.) The storm finally broke, with fat raindrops starting to fall and thunder rumbling around the hills – on and on and on – like a very atmospheric setting for a story!

Amazingly, the Italian border is only 5 minutes away from Mandy and Brian's flat – cross a small bridge, and you’re in another country.

There are several tiers of roads here: the smaller ones wind along the coast while higher up, under limestone cliffs pitted with caves, the toll motorway crosses viaducts and dives in and out of tunnels. So many tunnels – we didn't keep count, but there must have been dozens between Menton and Genova (or Genoa.) The toll road is a marvel of engineering, but it looks incongruous against the backdrop of villages, old houses, castles and church spires. We had lunch in a small town called Imperia, at a pizza place popular with the crews working on the boats in the nearby marina. Afterwards we carried on to Genova for a wander round the Old Port area, and on the way home, bought bottles of local red wine for 2 euros each.

Mandy and Brian in Genova
Ten minutes in the other direction is another country again - Monaco - where the palace is fairytale-perfect, the cars and boats are gleaming and expensive, there are defibrillators on every corner and  all the stands are being set up ready for the Grand Prix in another few weeks. 

Thursday 1 May 2014

Anzac at Gallipoli: in the news

Anzac Day at Gallipoli, as you might have read about it or seen it online:

"As we stand here in the peace and quiet of the early morning, we can cast our minds back to the morning 99 years ago, when the soft sounds of waves on the shore, and the gentle rhythmic splashing of oars of the landing boats were soon drowned out by the cacophony of gun fire, the shouts of orders and the screams of wounded men.
"Now, almost a century later, we come together to acknowledge the deeds of those who served in the Gallipoli campaign and to honour their memory and to reflect on all that they endured. There are great feats conducted here and there are those who straggled. Those who stood by their mates, and a few who let them down.
"We should not judge from the distance of history, just as we cannot imagine the suffering and horrors endured by those who served here."
(New Zealand Defence Force Major General Arthur David Gawn )

Wednesday 30 April 2014

Sunday 27 April: Farewell dinner

At the Panorama Restaurant, it was too cool to sit outdoors but we went upstairs between courses to admire (and be gobsmacked, yet again, by) the view from the rooftop. The Istanbul skyline was studded with domes and minarets, glowing in the late evening sun. Ships sailed past on the Bosphorus, seabirds wheeled overhead and at eye-level in various directions we could see other rooftop diners also enjoying the view from their own rooftop restaurants. As the sky darkened, many of the buildings were lit up, the bridge was illuminated in stripes of blue and red and a fireworks display burst out over the water.

Our meal was punctuated with speeches and toasts: to “Graeme and the team”, to the Volunteers, to Baris our guide, to “our changed views of Gallipoli”, to “the production team at the Efes brewery” (in tribute to several good nights of celebrations) and, more seriously, to “those who were at Gallipoli in 1915.” Jim, who left the group on our return to Istanbul to join another tour, came back (with his wife, Jan, just arrived from Sydney) to join in the fun. Travel plans for the next week or two were discussed (Vienna, Rome, London) and a birthday cake was brought out for Vin, who celebrated his birthday on Saturday, with a rousing chorus of “happy birthday to you”.

We were especially touched that the team leaders, who were as tired post-Gallipoli as the rest of us, had found time to prepare a gift for each of us: a personalised set of prints, including team photos and smaller group photos taken in various locations. There were lots of nice things (all true) said about Baris, who has made such a huge difference to the trip and taught us so much about the Turkish view of Gallipoli.

Our wonderful guide Baris in action
We all feel a sense of accomplishment at what we have achieved, and it’s hard to believe that the trip is nearly over, after all the months of planning and anticipation. It hardly seems any time at all since the team came together at Singapore Airport, and at the same time it feels like years ago as so much has happened since then. We’ve eaten together, shopped together, Turkish-bathed together, partied together (some more than others!) and shared our backgrounds and family stories. Some of us have shared rooms (thank you Leonie for being a great room-mate!)

We've celebrated three birthdays, for Fran, Simone and Vin. We've compared purchases and found out who are the best bargainers Luckily only a couple of people (no names) came down with tummy bugs, and there were plenty of nurses around to give good advice and hand out stocks of travel medicine.There are catch phrases that we’ve come to know (“Lord love ya”, that’ll be you, Simone!) and some team members have been given nicknames: Major Tom, Peter the Great and, in true Aussie fashion, Shorty and Curly (from which you can maybe guess how tall Mick is, and how much hair Jin has, or hasn’t).

But along with all the fun times, there has been a real sense of purpose and dedication, which has made this a unique time for everyone. As Graeme said, our experiences leading up to Anzac Day and on the day itself have created a bond not only with each other but with all the Red Coats of preceding years. We’ve all visited the sites, talked about our individual soldiers, survived the hectic hours as buses arrive and the long hours helping people through the night and then, half asleep on our feet, taken in the dawn service and the services at Lone Pine and Chunuk Bair.

On Monday, the group starts to head off in different directions, starting with Marc who has a 3.30am pick up at the hotel; then Andrea, Rosemary, Anna and me at 5.30am; then 15 people going back to Australia and NZ, Jim and his wife on a cruise down the Bosphorus, .Jane and Nicky to explore Cappadocia, Tom to walk the length of England and Scotland (we know it will be no problem for him!)

Sunday 27 April 2014

Saturday 26 - Sunday 27 April - post Gallipoli

Tired is not the word - even exhausted is only a mild term for how we felt once we got back to the Grand Eceabat Hotel on the afternoon of the 25th.

People dealt with their exhaustion in different ways. Some went down to the Kapitan Bar to down a few beers (Efes!!!), which may or many not have been a good idea, although they did score some free Anzac Tshirts from their visit. Some fell asleep, and felt either better or worse when they woke up. Most - not all - made it upstairs to dinner at 7pm, but most were in bed pretty early that night.

On Friday night, Graeme asked if we had any funny or memorable moments to share. Marc said that he had stumbled back to the tents for a rest and just as he was trying to drop off to sleep, he was jerked awake by the sound of someone practising the bagpipes under the trees nearby. Who on earth would be playing the bagpipes in the middle of the night?? We had to confess it was a Kiwi who played at the CB service. Someone else had a story about trying to wristband a man who was quite belligerent, and finding out later that the same man had been thrown out for being drunk, and was sobering up in a tent offsite.

On Saturday we had an 8.30am departure from the hotel, to make sure that the keen bargain hunters who wanted to shop at the Grand Bazaar could do so, as it's closed on Sundays. It was a slow trip back, especially once we hit weekend traffic on the outskirts of Istanbul. The traffic was crawling along so slowly that there were vendors selling their good inbetween the lanes on the roads.

Once re-installed at the Ottoman Legacy Hotel, we made plans for the afternoon - the main ones being shopping at the Bazaar or a visit to the Turkish baths. Both involved catching the tram, our first experience of doing so, but with a lot of noise and some shoving, we all managed to buy our 3 lire tokens and jump on board in time.

The baths are 500 years old and very beautiful. We didn't quite know what to expect, and nobody spoke much English so any communication was by pointing, tapping or gesturing. The seven of us who went (of the women - the men had a separate section) quickly decided that this was going to be a very bonding exercise and we had better shed any inhibitions straightaway. Anna's first comment when we walked into the bath room was "this looks like a big soapy orgy!"  (But she coped with the situation very well, given that many of us were old enough to be her mother, and one actually is her mother!) We came out feeling very relaxed, and would happily have made another vist on Sunday, if there had been time.

The Bazaar Shoppers had all had a good time too, and here were a lot of sudden dashes to money machines to replenish stocks of cash for more present-buying.

Later plans included a visit to to see the Whirling Dervishes and dinner out at various places around the city, coming home at various times of the night. I felt pleasantly relaxed after our Turkish bath experience, which was a good state to be in for the Whirling Dervishes as there was a lot of Whirling and not much else. It did feel very peaceful, but you didn't want to be in any kind of hurry.

On Sunday, Baris very kindly offered to guide us around for the day, and most of us took him up on the offer. We have come to appreciate the fact that Baris basically knows everything and everyone and can do anything. First of all he gave us a great tour of Topkapi Palace, where the tulips were still flourishing and the tilework was amazing.

Then he worked magic to get us tickets for Hagia Sophia without having to join the enormous queue, and found a friend inside who is an expert  on the building to guide us round. Hagia Sophia is a stunning building and it was the highlight of the day for many of us. Afterwards he took us to the Pudding Shop for lunch and took anyone shopping who still had purchases to make. The Pudding Shop has been around since the 1960s and used to be a popular meeting place for hippies and later on overland trips to and from Asia.

Several of us skipped the shopping to go and admire the Basilica Cistern instead.

One of my favourite moments came inside Topkapi Palace, as we went into one of the display rooms. The guard on duty asked where we came from and I said "Yeni Zelanda" (having finally found out the Turkish for New Zealand.) The others in the groups said Australia. "Ah, Anzacs!" said the guard, and then he added, "You are all brothers and sisters." That seemed to encapsulate the very special and unique relationship that NZers and Australians share with the Turkish people.

Friday 25 April 2014

Our Anzac Day experience

Best told by pictures and a time line - and I've had time to put some pictures up now. 

Thursday 24th April

9am Our usual morning briefing, but an hour later than usual (just as well, given the previous night’s belly dancing…)

9.30am Team members seen ducking in and out of local supermarkets to stock up on food and drink for the day ahead. The souvenir shop just along the road also does good business as we realise we have little time left for shopping for presents, and everything will probably be way more expensive in Istanbul.  

10.30am Everyone on the bus, loaded down with all the stuff we might possibly need over the next 24 hours – thermals, warm jackets, official red shirts and lanyards, scarves and gloves, sun hats, beanies, sunblock, sunglasses – it’s still not clear what the weather will be doing, although there is a possibility of showers.

10.35am Our bus leaves the hotel for the ACS (Anzac Commemorative Site.) Three of our leaders have been to Gallipoli before, and one of the team has been as a visitor (not a volunteer) a few years ago. They’ve done their best to explain what it will be like, and we’ve seen the seating and tents being set up over the previous few days, but still nothing quite prepares you for the real thing.

About 11am We arrive at Mimosa Park and offload two groups (our big team of 30 has been divided into 7 smaller groups) for their first stint at bus registration. People are already waiting in the park. The Mimosa Park system is being trialled for the first time as a practice run for next year, when bigger crowds are expected. In previous years, people have arrived early to be first in the queue so they can get the best spots (often the coveted grass areas where they can spread out sleeping bags) but the ACS doesn’t open until later in the afternoon, so they have ended up sitting on the (closed) road for hours until the ACS entrance opens. This year the park was used as an interim “holding pen” for the first few hours; the buses were registered in order of arrival so people kept their place in the queue, but they could then relax in the shade at Mimosa Park and play soccer or Frisbee or cards until their turn came up to enter the site.

11.15am We drive on for as long as the Turkish officials will let us, then get off the bus with all our gear. The bus driver then has to drive the long way around to the north entrance of the ACS and park there, beside the officials’’ rest area. He drives off, we keep walking past all the trucks and busy preparations to the tents. We sit at outdoor tables and enjoy a delicious lunch, then those of us who aren’t rostered on duty take advantage of the stretchers and pillows and lie down under the shade of the pine trees for a rest. It’s a hot afternoon and there is no noise except bird song (and a nearby generator), much more peaceful just down the road. People come and go for meals, depending on when they are rostered on or off duties.

2pm We aren’t on duty until later but we set off now to get through the ACS before it’s closed down for a bomb sweep; unfortunately they are doing it early – at 2pm, not 3pm as we had been told, so the site is already closed down. It turns into a very restful afternoon as we can’t go anywhere until they reopen the site.

4pm As soon as they do, we go through security, get wristbanded and issued with orange hi vis vests and head south past Anzac Cove to the bus set down area. 

Some of the first arrivals
When the buses roll up, we hop on board to repeat the most important points of the briefing that they’ve already received at bus registration: what they can’t take into the site, remember any medication because they won’t be back on the bus for 24 hours, take warm clothes because it will get cold overnight, keep walking 700m from here to the South Entrance. (The whole bus movement plan is very complicated, involving one way roads and numbered bus labels, and I’m not going into it in any more detail here!)

There are families, tour groups and school groups. Some of them are very organised, get straight off and start walking; other people have sudden flurries of packing and repacking their gear, and there is always someone who runs back for an item they’ve forgotten, usually just as the bus is pulling away.  Lots of them are wearing Gallipoli or Anzac souvenir T shirts, and there are Turkish vendors selling hats and blankets. It’s sunny and pleasantly warm, after a hot afternoon, so we enjoy chatting to the DVA (Dept of Veterans’ Affairs) staff and Turkish students working as interpreters in the spells between buses; then three or four buses arrive at once and we are suddenly busy.

8pm We swap duties to South Entrance; this involves meeting people after they’ve been through the security gates, and giving them wristbands and the information packs. I’m sure some older people have never been wristbanded before, and they are a little puzzled! We are also there to be a welcoming face, so we chat about where they’ve come from and answer any questions. Someone says how great it is to have the Kiwis and Aussies here!  As before, there are busy and quiet spells, depending on when the buses arrive (many of them coming down from Istanbul.)  Search and rescue teams go past with their dogs; black security vans roll in and out; a few mounted police canter past and there are always lots of jendarma about.

There’s a beautiful sunset over the Aegean Sea – the soldiers often comment in their letters about the colourful sunsets – and the water in Anzac Cove is very still, reflecting all the floodlights around the site. We think about the dawn services about to happen back in NZ and Australia. As it gets dark, we occasionally we see lights shining up on the hills above Rumours go round that there are a few Turkish snipers stationed up there in case of any trouble. Later newspaper reports say there were 1000 of them.

9pm at South Entrance. The wristbands come in flat sheets which are torn up as we need them; each one is numbered in sequence, which is how they keep track of visitor numbers. At one stage I find myself holding band no 3000, which seems quite special, but then there’s another sudden rush of incoming people and I forget to point it out to the person who gets it.

10.30pm Back to the rest area for dinner (again, delicious.) Baris is waiting as we arrive; he scans the menu, suggests what we might like, calls the waiter over, orders for us and makes sure we have a drink. As soon as we’ve eaten, he shoos us off to our own tent for a rest. The tent is full of prone bodies huddled under blankets and beanies, and silent except for a few whistling snores and the occasional click of a camera as someone takes a shot of us all. Simone, Peter, Nick and I get about 1 ½ hour’s rest on the stretchers before our next rostered duty, and some people even manage to sleep. All through the night we look out for each other as a team and try to make sure that everyone - including the team leaders – gets enough rest; there is a lot of joking and friendly conversation amongst us.

12.30am (now officially the 25th, and Simone’s birthday!)  Now we are helping in the Assisted Mobility area. People can register to sit here with a carer if they need extra help, and it also gets them a seat on a shuttle bus to Lone Pine or Chunuk Bair afterwards. The big screens are playing historical documentaries and short films, and there are some school choir performances and a band which we can watch if we aren’t needed to help people find seats or get up and down the stairs. 

We keep checking the sky for rainclouds, but the stars are clear and it’s a surprisingly mild night. Dogs are wandering round, but they are mild tempered as most Turkish dogs seem to be, and nobody minds. The birds are still singing – we think they must be confused by all the lights!

1am a reporter and cameraman from ABC news turn up in the stands. They want to know if there’s anyone they can interview who has a family connection to Gallipoli, so we go up and down the rows til we find someone for them to talk to. 

3am We swap duties back to South Entrance. Walking over there, we can see the kids stretched out in sleeping bags on the grass, trying to sleep through the music or commentary from the big screen. 

Not many people are coming through now; most have already arrived and claimed their space. The wristband numbers are now in the 4000s, but there’s a general feeling that overall numbers are down from last year; perhaps about 4500 or 4800. It is actually quite a nice number; it doesn’t feel too crowded or overwhelming. Some people come back and ask if they can take extra info packs. It’s obvious now that there will be heaps left over, so we gladly give them away. I’m sure it won’t be like this next year.

4am We end up finishing early and wandering back to the main site to get ready for the dawn service which we’re going to watch from the Assisted Mobility stand. There is a poignant film playing on the big screen called The telegram man. Lots of people – especially the sleeping bag crowd – aren’t paying it much attention, but hopefully they will read over some of the booklets and look at the historical photos in the info packs later.

5am Huge queues at the tea and coffee and food stalls and at the portaloos. And everyone in Assisted Mobility wants some assistance to get to their special toilet before the service starts. One woman manages to lock herself in, but we get her out at last.  

5.30am And it’s starting…

Too hard to describe - but there is a very special moment when we look up and realise a crescent moon is sailing just behind the silhouette of the Sphinx.

7am  We help the Assisted Mobility people onto the shuttle buses. Most other people walk up Artillery Road – 3km to Lone Pine, 6km to Chunuk Bair - and it’s heating up – it never got very cold at all overnight – so they are very red in the face by the time they arrive. The Aussie volunteers go to Lone Pine for the service at 10.30am and we six Kiwis are at Chunuk Bair for the 11.45am service.

8am Bit of a hold up at CB. There is an earlier Turkish event up here which is still going on. It’s a big day for boy scouts from all over Turkey – we hear one estimate of 17,000 – who make a pilgrimage from Ataturk’s home village to the Turkish 57th Regiment Memorial near Lone Pine. I don’t know if that figure is correct, but they are walking past for hours – literally. It means nobody can go in, but luckily it’s still warm and sunny and everyone is glad of a rest on the grass after the climb up the hill.

Waiting at Chunuk Bair
9am Still waiting to go in. We explain the situation to people as they arrive and collect their visitor surveys.

10.30am The crowd begins to move at last – it’s only a small crowd really, when they all get seated – maybe a thousand or so.

11.15am  Sir Jerry Mateparae, the Governor General arrives and delights the crowd by moving round saying hello, rather than going straight to his seat. He let people take photos with him and captivates everyone even more by cuddling an eight month old baby. In front of our stand, he stops and calls out to all the young Kiwi travellers, “had a shower yet today?” Gallipoli and the Anzac story obviously mean a lot to him; he gives an emotional, heart-felt address and what feels like an impromptu speech at the very end, thanking every person present for the effort they had made to be there. 

(I chatted to one Kiwi who met Sir Jerry and talked to him him a day or so ago down at Beach Cemetery; he seems like such a kind, generous and approachable man.)

Sir Jerry meeting the crowd.
11.45am the service starts, once Sir Jerry gets to his seat. There are several readings – one very poignant one of William Malone’s last letter to his wife, written at Quinn’s Post at 8.10pm on 5 August 1915, just before the launch of the attack on CB; another, the reflections of Dan Curham, who served with the Wellington battalion at CB and recorded his memories for Maurice Shadbolt’s Voices of Gallipoli in 1988.

“By some miracle I was the only one who got anywhere near the summit of Chunuk Bair. I never saw or heard of my comrades again; I don’t even know what happened to their bodies. … I have felt their loss very deeply for the rest of my life… Talking about Gallipoli, especially about Chunuk Bair, brings sorrow to my heart even as I talk to you now… I didn’t weep physically… I was not a weeping chap. I wept in my heart.”

Sir Jerry gives his address, we sing How great thou art and Po Atarau / Now is the hour (in English and Maori). Leading Aircraftsman Sarah Henderson, RNZAF plays the bugle for the Last Post and the Rouse. The Ode is spoken in both Maori and English as well, and we have both the Turkish and NZ national anthems. It feels like a very inclusive service, honouring Maori, Pakeka and the Turkish people.

Maori TV are here filming the service, I get a text from my mother saying she and my sister are watching it live and she thinks she spotted me!

12.45 the service finishes and people stop to admire the wreaths,then start to drift back to the open grassy area to wait for their buses

1pm It starts to rain

1.15pm It is bucketing down!!!! Don't know what they would have done if this had happened during the service itself. One of the Maori TV guys lends me an umbrella (I hope he doesn't mind that I leave it in the hotel later - my suitcase seems so much fuller than it was that an umbrella simply won't fit.) 

1.30pm Everyone is sheltering under trees. The narrow road outside is jammed with buses lining up to pick up their passengers. People are cold, wet and pretty tired by now, and a lot of them are facing a 4 or 5 hour bus trip straight back to Istanbul. Each bus load cheers loudly when their bus's number is announced. 

But they're all gone by 2pm - much faster than in other years, apparently. Our bus is the last one to arrive because we have to make sure everyone else has gone before we leave.  

2.30pm Back at the hotel - showers- sleep - and at some stage, packing to leave for Istanbul tomorrow. 

Our Anzac Day experience = amazing!!!

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Wednesday 23 April: Rhododendron Walk and Aegean cruise, and nearly the 25th!!

Today was the last day of our tours and explorations before all the hard work starts tomorrow. We went for an amazing walk along Rhododendron Ridge, from Chunuk Bair to Embarkation Pier. Once again we had it to ourselves, although we did meet groups who did it yesterday or were planning to do it this afternoon. 

Near the start of the walk is The Farm Cemetery. We stopped there for another of our soldier profiles, and for a short talk to remember the nurses and other medical staff who played such a big part in the war. I also accidentally left my Anzac Day book there (I'd had it out to show the picture of my Great Great Aunt Louie - Louisa Bird - one of the first WW1 NZ nurses.) 

Alexander Turmbull Library, Ref: EP/1965/1393-F. Four nurses who served in the first and second world wars photographed on ANZAC Day 1965, attending a reception at the Wellington Returned Services Association's Headquarters for Gallipoli Veterans. They are from the left: Miss M Oconnor. Miss I Willis. Mrs M J Clifford. Miss L M Bird.
There might be a chance that the book is still there to be retrieved on the 25th; otherwise it will be my gift to Gallipoli, and hopefully someone has picked it up who wants to keep it!

Last sighting of Anzac Day book at The Farm Cemetery!
The whole walk takes about 2 hours on a narrow path along a steep ridge with sheer drops on either side, and more stunning views towards Suvla Bay. This is the sort of terrain that the NZ troops scrambled up on the first days of the landings. It seems hardly possible,but they must have been fuelled by adrenaline (and probably terror.)

After we'd finished the walk and Baris had welcomed us into the Rhododendron Club, we went on to the Hill 60 CemeteryThis site is on the edge of the Suvla plain, north of the main Anzac areaThere are 788 men buried here but nearly all of them are unidentified. It also contains one of four memorials to New Zealand troops with no known graves, the Hill 60 (New Zealand) Memorial, with more than 180 names. The other NZ memorials are at Chunuk Bair, Lone Pine and Twelve Tree Copse.(The hills were often given names corresponding to their contour height, so there is also Hill 600, Hill 700 etc. - and Hill 60 was therefore not a very tall hill.) 

Poppies by the roadside on the way to Hill 60
After lunch, we went on a 2 hour cruise along the coast, sadly not in the million-dollar yacht moored at the wharf, but on a car ferry that took us up to the ACS and Anzac Cove and even further up towards Suvla Bay. There are so many thoughts that go through your mind in a situation like that - mostly about what thoughts were going through the minds of the Anzac soldiers when they were being rowed ashore. Some of them would have had less than an hour to live when they were sitting out there. And how did they feel when they were being taken off wounded, or when they were leaving in December, and leaving their dead mates behind?

Our wonderful team leaders and guide!
Jane's travelling bear - seeing the world with the Red Coats!

Best mates: Bob's view of the coastline, from at sea!

Today is also a special national holiday in Turkey for national Children's Day, so there were lots of Turkish tour buses on the road. We got back to the hotel to find a giant flag on display - to the dismay of those people who had put their washing out to dry this morning, and now found their verandahs shrouded from any sunshine! Our restaurant is at the very top where the open windows are.

Some of us went downstairs when we heard the Ottoman Military Band marching through town this evening (they came up to our rooftop restaurant to play for us after dinner.) This was their idea - they asked if any of the tourists wanted their photos taken with them!

We are supposed to be getting an early night, but the music and dancing are continuing!Tomorrow morning we have a late breakfast and will be setting off about 10.30am for the Anzac site. After that it will be all on - all through the night - until after the Chunuk Bair service at about 11am on the 25th. Everything seems as well prepared as possible; the only thing that can't be organised in advance is the weather, and we're crossing our fingers that it won't rain.

Best wishes for all the Anzac Day services in New Zealand (and Australia.) We are all ready to go; the 30 of us have melded into a great team and everyone is excited (and maybe just a bit apprehensive!) about what lies ahead.