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.

More epitaphs

You could stop at any one of these thousands of names, remembered on graves and memorials, and think about the sadness that settled in the homes of these men's families on the other side of the world when news arrived of their death (or disappearance.)

I also find it fascinating to see how their families chose to remember them, in the limited space they were allowed. Here are some more examples:

Dear is the spot to me where my beloved son rests, my Anzac hero. Mother.

A sister's chum on earth, united again in heaven.

There are many heroes in the world but there is one hero in my heart.

Dick, you are ever remembered.

Sisters Florrie, Alice, Rosie miss you dearly, miss you Will.

Just a memory fond and true to show dear Frank I think of you.

He left home in perfect peace, he little thought of death so nigh.

One crowded hour of glorious life is worth an age without a name.

A kind and loving son.

Not in vain.


His life for his country.

Some day some time we'll understand, Mother.

Son would that I could have died for thee.

Our Anzac.

His last words Goodbye Cobber, God bless you.
(this is true - see my blogpost on Walker's Ridge Cemetery.)

Our beloved son, our Anzac laddie.

Another hero's part is done, another soul gone west.

The dearly loved only son of John and Agnes, and brother of Ivy.

Brother Bill a sniping fell, we miss him still, we ever will.

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Tuesday 22 April: Courtney and Steele's Post, Quinn's Post, the 57th Regiment Memorial, Walker's Ridge and The Nek

At last - there were two other Kiwis at breakfast at our hotel this morning, and we are noticing more and more people around all the time - we don't get the cemeteries to ourselves any more.

This morning we went down to the Anzac Commemorative Site (ACS), which is even busier now with massive preparations underway. Everywhere there are tents and rows of seating going up, portaloos being put in position, sound and light systems being tested. I had no idea before this week of the degree of organisation involved. We had a look round and talked through some of our duties, then went back to the Kum Hotel for another briefing with the people from VANZ (Veterans' Affairs NZ) and the Australian Dept of Veterans' Affairs. 

The weather will play a big part in the proceedings, and various weather forecasts are promising everything from showers to thunderstorms to afternoon temperatures in the high 20s. Numbers at the dawn service have decreased in recent years from 7,500 a few years ago to 5,200 in 2013, but there is a feeling that more people may arrive this year and nobody quite knows how many to expect. 

After lunch at the Kum Hotel, we spent a hot but rewarding afternoon walking round the battle sites and cemeteries on Second Ridge, starting at Courtney and Steele's Post and Quinn's Post and making our way past the Turkish 57th Regiment Memorial to finish at Walker's Ridge and The Nek. All of these were precarious and dangerous positions, and the scenes of fierce fighting; the terrain seems impossibly steep for anyone to have scrambled up.

Courtney’s and Steele’s Post cemetery is named after Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Courtney and Major Thomas Steel, both of the 14th Battalion. Quinn’s Post cemetery is named after Captain Hugh Quinn of the 15th Battalion AIF. There are 473 men buried here. The Turks called it Bombasirt (Bomb Ridge) because the Turkish and Anzac  trenches were so close together and the noise of rifle fire and bomb blasts was earsplitting and relentless. 

Cemetery, Gallipoli peninsula, Turkey
Cemetery (Quinn's Post?), Gallipoli peninsula, Turkey, circa 1918. Alexander Turnbull Library Ref  PAColl-7082-1
Chaplain Frederick Wray’s diary tells you what a dreadful time they had of it here:
April 28 – At 12.30 reached 14th lines on Quinn’s Corner… at 2.30am buried 29, including two NZ officers.
April 30 – Went up to Quinn’s Corner and buried 5 men.
May 1 – Buried 1 man at Gully cemetery and 9 at Quinn’s Corner.
May 2 – Buried 7 at Gully cemetery and 3 at Quinn’s Corner
May 3 – An awful day… The 16th were enfiladed by machine guns and did not hold their trenches… the 16th lost 400 out of 600, the 13th 200… Saw a sniper get 7 out of 8 at Quinn’s Corner and he got Lt Binnie… I buried 8, including Lts Binnie and Freeman at Quinn’s Corner.
[Chaplain Frederick William Wray, PR00247, AWM]

The views (yet again) were spectacular, especially from Walker's Ridge Cemetery which sits on a sloping hillside, bathed in sunshine, made colourful by irisies and fragrant by rosemary, and overlooking a panorama stretching all the way up to Suvla Bay (with a military helicopter flying past, and the Australian national anthem playing on a loudspeaker somewhere in the background.) It seems strange and scarcely believable that men died here so terribly, within view of such beauty.

The Nek was a track or “neck” of land between Russell’s Top and Baby 700. It may have been named by someone who had fought in the Boer War in South Africa and knew the Afrikaans word “nek”, meaning a mountain pass. There are 316 men buried here, including those who died on 7 August 1915 in the Australian Light Horse attack on the Nek, shown in the 1981 Australian film Gallipoli. Four successive waves of soldiers launched the attack, seeing those in front of them getting mown down and knowing that they were probably going to die too. Of the 550 soldiers, 234 were killed and 138 wounded, many within metres of their own trenches.

The cemetery was made after the end of the war so it sits in what would have been no man’s land. Charles Bean, the Australian historian, said they came back in 1919 to find the bones of those who had died still out in the open, over 300 of them in an area the size of 3 tennis courts.

photo: see caption below
An aerial photograph of The Nek Cemetery, Anzac, taken on 25 June 1923 [AWM H18635]
Walker's Ridge Cemetery began as two rows of plots dug either side of an Anzac trench, and there is still an open space in the middle. There are 92 men buried here including 40 New Zealanders. One of the Australians, Private Roy Robertson, was only 16 years old when he was killed in November. You can read about other boy soldiers on the Australian Roll of Honour here.

Another Australian soldier has the inscription “Goodbye Cobber, God bless you” on his grave. They were the last words he spoke to the soldier beside him as they both prepared to charge.  Another grave is that of Private Hohepa Herewini from Rotorua who served with the New Zealand Maori Contingent.

photo: see caption below
A Maori of the Maori Contingent, New Zealand Expeditionary Force, in the trenches of the Apex [AWM G01268]

Our tributes to individual  soldiers continue at each cemetery, and they are often emotional experiences, both for the presenter and for the rest of us. It is a very supportive atmosphere; everyone listens respectfully, and afterwards there are calls of "thanks" and "well done", and sometimes hugs and tears.

Today we also had the privilege of hearing Baris talk about a Turkish soldier: Huseyin Avni Bey, 1871-1 Agustos 1915. Born in Macedonia, the 1st commander of the 57th Regiment, this was the man to whom Ataturk gave his famous order ("I don't order you to fight, I order you to die") on 25 April. His tent site became his grave when his tent was hit by a shell. We were honoured to be the first group of Gallipoli Volunteers to visit here, and to see the Turkish memorial site nearby, where the names of 2800 soldiers were recorded on tiers of steps down the hillside. 

These girls were 17 years old, from Ankara and visiting the Turkish 57th Regiment Memorial. It had been suggested to us that we bring small NZ and Australian souvenirs to give away to people we met or who helped us along the way. These girls seemed pleased to be given some of my NZ presents. They told me that my Turkish was very good!

Tonight we had free time for dinner and most of us caught the ferry over to Canakkale (with a bit of yelling to the late comers, and a few last minute sprints - apparently they won't hold the ferry, even if you have bought a ticket and are nearly there.) The lemon squeezer salesman on the ferry did a great demo of his product and was flooded by orders from us (a steal at only 1 lire each, although I was so busy taking photos that I'm still not quite sure how it works) We ate sea bass at a cafe on the waterfront and enjoyed watching everyone walking past, although we didn't enjoy quite so much the attentions of the cafe's cats and kittens, as they curled around our legs hoping for leftovers. 

My lovely roomie Leonie

On the ferry back to Eceabat, we talked to several Aussie tourists who have just arrived and will be at the dawn service. It made us realise how much we have learnt over the last few days, because we were able to answer a lot of their questions and we had a much clearer idea of what was in store for them.

Tomorrow we have our last battlefield visits, and possibly an Aegean cruise, weather permitting, so we can see the coastline as the approaching Anzac soldiers would have seen it on the 25th April 1915. From Thursday 24th, it will be all on and there won;t be time for any more blogging until Anzac Day is well and truly over. If you are watching any overage of the Gallipoli services - the dawn service or the later ones at Lone Pine or Chunuk Bair - don,t forget to look out for the Red Coats!