Late one April evening I flew out of Perth, destined for Istanbul, Turkey, the gateway to retracing the first ANZACs.
After a night’s rest in Istanbul, I travelled to Eceabat, the closest major town to Gallipoli and the beginning of a profound travel experience. From the moment I stepped onto ANZAC Cove I was moved. I walked up to one of the many cemeteries in the area, which held special significance to the Australians as it was the site of the only cricket game between the Australians and the Turks.
After wandering through row after row of graves, I continued up the hill towards Lone Pine. The single tree stands to symbolise a solitary tree which was left standing in the area by the Turkish troops, to be used as a landmark. I was immediately overwhelmed by the number of graves and the number of lives lost in such a small area. Sadly, as I wandered further I realised that these graves only represent a small fraction of the lives lost, with hundreds more names written on the boards closer to the memorial.
I continued walking to The Nek, where nearly 400 Australian troops died in a matter of minutes, due to the timing of advances. Again, I was overwhelmed, but this time not from the number of graves, but rather from the lack of graves. Of the hundreds who were killed in this small area in such a short time, very few bodies were recovered, meaning that these sacrifices go completely unnoticed.
As I looked out from the cemetery I saw one of the most beautiful views of the Gallipoli coastline, but the memory of what happened only a few meters behind me made this beauty a bitter sweet picture.
After walking along the coastline and seeing ANZAC Cove from the water, it was clear how much of a suicide mission the landing was. As I stood there it was not difficult to imagine what it would have been like in that same spot nearly 99 years ago. Being the same age as many of the ANZAC troops, I could not however comprehend is how those soldiers felt, seeing their best mates dying all around them, on what they thought would be a great adventure.
ANZAC Cove provides the Australian historical tourist with an experience that is humbling, confronting and inspiring offering more understanding of our heritage in a glance than any history book can provide. I returned to Perth with a greater understanding of Turkish cultures and a new perspective on the ANZAC legend, which is something I’ll never forget.