The Saddest, Most Beautiful Cemetery in the World – Chunuk Bair

“I am prepared for death and hope that God will have forgiven me all my sins.” Lieutenant Colonel William Malone, New Zealand Soldier, in a letter to his wife shortly before he was killed defending the position his battalion held on the summit of Chunuk Bair.

Between the 7th and 9th August 2015 a mixed group of New Zealand, British, Australian and Indian soldiers made their way towards the high ground of Chunuk Bair. The Allied commanders believed that if their forces could capture the high ground then it would be possible to break through the Turkish lines and head towards the Dardanelles.

“…attacking troops made their way up the steep slopes and through the deep gullies on the approach to the heights. Some units became lost in this wild country and planned assaults were often carried out too late and with inadequate support. The New Zealanders, fighting desperately and sustaining great losses, reached the Chunuk Bair summit and gazed upon the Dardanelles.” Gallipoli Peninsula Peace Park.

Wellington Infantry Regiment Maori Contingent
Wellington Infantry Regiment Maori Contingent

On the 10th August Turkish forces led by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk launched a counter offensive and regained the summit. It was the last time the ANZACs would view the Dardanelles and, after the failures in August, the British mounted no more major attacks at Gallipoli.

Winter arrived in November bringing frostbite to some 16,000 troops whilst others literally froze at their post. Mounting criticism throughout the Commonwealth eventually led to a decision to withdraw.

“Between 8 and 20 December 1915, 90,000 men were secretly embarked from Suvla and ANZAC. On 8 and 9 January 1916 a similar evacuation was conducted at Helles. Only a handful of casualties were suffered in these well-executed operations.” Gallipoli Peninsula Peace Park.

Chunuk Bair MIA Memorial
Chunuk Bair MIA Memorial

“ANZAC stood, and still stands, for reckless valour in a good cause, for enterprise, resourcefulness, fidelity, comradeship, and endurance that will never own defeat.” C.E.W Bean, Australian official Historian.

The first ANZAC Day gathering was held on the 25th August 1916 to commemorate the brave soldiers who lived, fought and died at Gallipoli. Nowadays ANZAC Day celebrates all Australians and New Zealanders who have served their country in times of war.

“However, it remains a day that recalls particularly 25 April 1915 when Australians and New Zealanders landed on the shores of Gallipoli, where they founded a lasting tradition of courage, endurance and sacrifice.” Gallipoli Peninsula Peace Park.

For me it was a humbling experience to stand in ANZAC footprints.

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