Sunday 20 April 2014

Sunday 20 April: Lone Pine and Johnston's Jolly

Today was Easter Sunday, but no sign of it here in Turkey, apart from chocolate mini eggs left on our breakfast table by some mysterious Easter bunny, possibly a team leader in disguise.

Today was also our first visit to Lone Pine memorial and cemetery. This is a significant site for the Australians because it’s where one of their fiercest battles took place on 6-9 August 1915. Today it’s where the Australian Memorial Service is held on Anzac Day. People walk up to Lone Pine after the dawn service.

Lone Pine is named after the single pine tree that used to grow there. (There is a pine tree there now, but I presume it was planted later.) A few pinecones from the area were taken back to Australia and planted there. One of the resulting seedlings was planted in 1934 at the site of what would be the Australian War Memorial. Around New Zealand are other trees that have grown from Gallipoli pine cones.

Like the ACS, it was a flurry of activity with workmen setting up for the service, but apart from them and a TV crew, we were once again the only visitors.

Lone Pine has quite a different feel from the other cemeteries we have visited so far. It's very flat, with the headstones laid out in neat rows, but the neatness and tidiness are a far cry from what it must have been like in the heat of battle. Baris, our guide, explained the positions of of the Anzac and Turkish troops, and we tried to imagine the scene in August 1915 when so many hundreds of solders died that afterwards, it was said, you couldn't walk a step without standing on a dead body. Many of the graves can only give the date of death as 6-9 August, showing how intense the fighting must have been.One thing Baris said which I didn't know was that the Australians launched their attack at 5.30pm on the 6th August because at that time of year, the sun was shining from their position right into the eyes of the Turkish troops.

The TV crew was from Melbourne's Channel Seven, and they filmed us as we gathered at one of the graves where Terry talked about his great-uncle, who lost his life on the first day at Gallipoli, and also as we stood near the memorial wall for Jim to lay two poppies in memory of two of his Vietnam vet friends. 
They also took Jane to Quinn's Post cemetery (where we haven't been yet), to talk about her great grandfather who was killed there. There is a section of the wall for NZ troops, and we met there to remember two of those soldiers. 

Another name on the memorial wall is that of Private James Martin, the youngest Australian boy soldier who died aged 14 at sea on 25 October. 

Portrait of Jim Martin
Portrait of Jim Martin, thought to be the youngest soldier to die while on active service in the Australian Imperial Force.
AWM P00069.001

The Lone Pine cemetery contains 1,167 graves, about half of them unidentified. The last Australian soldier to be buried here during the campaign was killed on 18 December, just a day before the evacuation on the night of 19/20 December. The memorial commemorates more than 4,000 Australians and New Zealanders who died at Gallipoli and don’t have a known grave, or who died at sea. 

The inscription on the memorial reads:
To the Glory of God and in lasting memory of 3,268 Australian soldiers who fought on Gallipoli in 1915 and have no known graves, and 456 New Zealand soldiers whose names are not recorded in other areas of the Peninsula but who fell in the Anzac Area and have no known graves; and also of 960 Australians and 252 New Zealanders who, fighting on Gallipoli in 1915, incurred mortal wounds or sickness and found burial at Sea.

The terrible battle conditions are described in a diary entry of one of the chaplains, Walter Dexter, who took burial services almost every day from 25 April onwards:  
In the Lone Pine the moving of the dead goes steadily on. All hope of getting them out for burial is given up and they are being dragged into saps and recesses, which will be filled up. The bottom of the trench is fairly clear, you have not to stand on any as you walk along and the bottom of the trench is not springy, nor do gurgling sounds come from under your feet as you walk on something soft. The men are feeling worn out but are sticking it like Britons. The stench you get used to after a bit unless a body is moved. In all this the men eat, drink and try to sleep. Smoking is their salvation and a drop of rum works wonders … Had a funeral at 6 p.m. One is obsessed with dead men and burials and I am beginning to dream of them. I suppose it is because I am so tired. [Walter Ernest Dexter, diary, 10 August 1915, AWM PR00248]

The chaplains and padres worked tirelessly to cheer and comfort the men. These words are from a biography of Salvation Army Padre William McKenzie:
[MacKenzie] …toiled with the wounded and dead for three days and nights without rest, and with only three biscuits and six pannikans of tea for nourishment, burying in that period no fewer than 647 men. By the end of that time he was so exhausted by lack of rest and food, and so torn with the sight of the suffering and the loss of so many he knew, that, he confessed years afterwards, he wished inexpressibly for death to take him also.’
[Adelaide Ah Kow, Anzac Padre, Adelaide, 1949]

Johnston’s Jolly
Next we walked  up the road to Johnston's Jolly, named after Colonel George Johnston’s because his field guns were said to "jolly up" the Turkish troops opposite. 

It’s hard to get your head around the geography of Gallipoli from studying maps, and being here in person makes it all so much clearer. The views from the road up past Lone Pine are spectacular, and even more so when you get to Chunuk Bair, but the memorable thing about Johnston's Jolly is the remains of the tunnels and trenches - now just shallow dips amongst the pine trees, but enough to give you a real sense of how they were linked and interconnected,and how close they were to the Turkish trenches, now on the other side of the road. 

Tunnels were constantly being dug to try and extend the trenches or to get to a point where they could plant explosives under the Turkish lines, but the Turks were trying to do the same thing so it was a dangerous operation.

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