A good army of 50,000 men and sea power – that is the end of the Turkish menace. Winston Churchill, 1915
Late last year Heidi and I had a short break in Turkey and managed to spend a day at Gallipoli. It was a haunting experience filled with admiration for the soldiers of both sides who stepped up into a war they had no control over yet maintained their dignity and respect for each other, and a heavy sadness for the immense loss of life. Over the next six posts we will share information from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and our images taken on the day, in the hope that we can convey to you the emotion of standing in the saddest, most beautiful cemetery in the world.
“Within days of the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, both Australia and New Zealand began to raise forces to support the British Empire’s war effort. The first cohort sent to Europe was redirected to Egypt for initial training, arriving as early as December 1914. They were organised into a new formation: the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, or ANZAC. This included the 1st Australian Division and the New Zealand and Australian Division, incorporating the New Zealand Infantry Brigade, the 1st Australian Light Horse Brigade and the New Zealand Mounted Rifles. Also attached to the corps were the 7th Brigade of Indian Mounted Artillery, and the Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps. Placed under the command of General William Birdwood, the ANZAC Corps was assigned to take part in the Allied amphibious landings which would begin on 25 April 1915.” Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Standing on the beach at Ari Burnu where some 4,000 ANZAC troops came ashore on that first morning of the campaign was an eerie experience. In the relative silence of birdsong and lapping waves it was hard to picture the chaos of violence and death that once stained this unassuming little inlet. Our guide pointed out that in the darkness and confusion the ANZACs had come ashore at the wrong place. What should have been an easy run across flat fields was now an impossible landscape of deep gullies and high ridges.
“By nightfall over 16,000 troops were ashore, the beaches were full of wounded men, and those on the slopes were digging in. This area soon became known as ‘ANZAC’, and its features would be renamed by those living and fighting here: Shrapnel Valley, Plugges’s Plateau, Johnston’s Jolly, Happy Valley, Russell’s Top, the Nek, Walker’s Ridge, Lone Pine.” Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Ari Burnu Cemetery was established within days of the first landing. Today there are 151 Australian soldiers, 35 New Zealand soldiers, 27 soldiers from the United Kingdom, 3 Indian soldiers and 37 unidentified bodies interred here.