Tuesday 8 April 2014

The Gallipoli ballot for 2015

25 April 2015 will mark the centenary of the first landings at Gallipoli. So many people are expected to want to attend that a ballot has been held to limit the numbers to 8,000 Australians and 2,000 New Zealanders. (The sites at Gallipoli where the services are held aren't big, and just can't cope with more than this.) The proportions were based on the relative number of casualties suffered by each country.

Entries to the ballot closed on 31 January 2014, and the results were announced on 31 March. In New Zealand, about 10,000 people applied, and 950 double passes have been issued, with 100 special passes set aside for later allocations to youth and other representatives. Of those double passes, 251 were won by direct descendants of those who fought at Gallipoli, 149 were won by veterans and 550 by members of the general public. 21 successful applicants are both direct descendants and veterans.The oldest successful applicant will be 92 in 2015, the youngest 18. The ballot places are free, but people who won one still need to make their own travel arrangements and meet all their own travel and accommodation costs. 

Visitors overnighting at the Anzac Commemorative Site.

I'm sure there will be a lot more publicity about this next year, but in the meantime there are already some fascinating stories about people who have won places, many of whom applied because of family members who served in World War One, or in later wars. 

Janet Johnson is from Waitara; her father served in the Middle East and Italy in WW2, and her grandfather was too young for Gallipoli, but signed up as soon as he turned 20 in 1916 and served with the New Zealand Medical Corps. 

Roger Laybourn of Hamilton said that his grandfather, Archibald "Archie" Johnston, fought at Gallipoli and then went on to fight on the Somme; he died in 1995, aged 99.

There are a number of other stories here, including that of 85-year-old Syd Hunter of Waiheke Island, who will be taking his daughter Kirsten with him. One of Syd's uncles, William Charles Bottle, was killed at Gallipoli between 26 April and 30 April, aged 22. William's brother Frank landed at Gallipoli in May and was wounded in July. "On 19 October 1915, he was on a ship bound for Greece when it was struck by a torpedo. The ship sank with the loss of 167 souls, but Trooper Bottle and a mate, Jack Broom, clung to a plank for seven hours before being rescued by the Royal Navy. He lived until December 1986."

The thing that strikes me about all these stories is that they are so personal. Anywhere else in the world, you might want to go and see something you've seen pictures of or read about - Buckingham Palace in London, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Empire State Building in New York. But when people talk about wanting to go to Gallipoli, they mention their father, or grandfather, or great uncle. They say this is "something I have dreamed about all my life". Or that it is a "privilege", "a huge honour ...to be able to attend the Gallipoli dawn service on behalf of all our family members." 

I'm sure this is the case, too, with the Gallipoli Volunteers. We have been emailing round brief descriptions of ourselves and our reasons for applying for the volunteer program,and these same words and themes keep coming up: honour, privilegegratitudewonderexcitement. Gallipoli is certainly a special place

From the air view of seats set up for Gallipoli commemorations.

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