Category Archives: Gallipoli

Turkish Memorial

The Saddest, Most Beautiful Cemetery in the World – Turkish Memorial

Countless dead, countless! It was impossible to count. Memis Bayraktar, Turkish Soldier.

On the 19th February 1915 the Royal Navy commenced a bombardment of Turkish positions along the Dardanelles straits in the hope of breaking through to Istanbul. The attack failed and the Gallipoli invasion began. The British expected the campaign to end quickly, but the resourcefulness of the Turkish and German commanders resulted in a deadly stalemate costing thousands of lives. Turkish authorities have estimated their casualties at around 87,000 dead and between 250,000 to 300,000 wounded. Like the Allies, many of Turkey’s dead remain unidentified and thousands are buried in a mass grave in the valley below.

Turkish Mass Grave

Turkish Mass Grave

Soldiers from both sides found respect for each other during the campaign. The Johnnys and the Mehmets were determined in their attacks and resilient in defence, yet full of humanity and compassion for the wounded. The image below shows a statue of a Turkish soldier bringing a wounded Australian to the ANZAC lines. The soldier was allowed to return to his platoon.

Turkish Soldier Brings Wounded ANZAC To Enemy Lines

Turkish Soldier Brings Wounded ANZAC To Enemy Lines

“You think there are no true Turks left. But there are Turks, and Turk’s sons!” Unknown Turkish Soldier.

On the 10th August Mustafa Kemal Ataturk personally led the counter attack on Chunuk Bair that repelled the Allies. At 4:30am he crept to within 20 – 30 metres of allied dugouts and called his army forward with a wave of his whip.

Bedlam broke loose at 4:30am. The English were in a a rude awakening. Sounds of Allah, Allah tore the skies in the darkness over the front. Smoke covered all sides and the excitement dominates everywhere. The Enemies bombs tore deep holes in the battlefield, shrapnels and bullets drop like rain from the sky. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

During the fight at Chunuk Bair shrapnel hit Ataturk in the chest. Fortunately for the Turkish commander his pocket watch absorbed the blow and he was left uninjured. The rest of his troops were not so lucky and his 57th Infantry Regiment that was formed in 1912 during the Balkan War, who defended Ari Burnu during the first landings and took part in battles at Lone Pine and Chunuk Bair, ended the defence of Gallipoli with 1,817 dead.

Cemetery for the 57th Regiment

Cemetery for the 57th Regiment

Memorial at Chunuk Bair

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.

The Unknown Soldier

The Saddest, Most Beautiful Cemetery in the World – The Unknown Soldier

Distance between mutual trenches is eight meters, that it, death is imminent, imminent…Those standing the first trench were constantly falling with nobody surviving, and the ones standing in the second one are replacing them.” Mustafa Kemel Ataturk.

No one ever expected the Gallipoli campaign to take so long or result in so many casualties.

  • 21,200 British
  • 10,000 French
  • 8,700 Australians
  • 2,700 New Zealanders
  • 1,350 Indians
  • and 49 Newfoundlanders

The Allied wounded totalled over 97,000.

Fighting along the lines from Lone Pine to Chunuk Bair was intense and in many instances the trenches we so close you could hear your enemy breathing.

Turkish trench where the video was taken from.

Turkish trench where the video was taken from.

Turkish resistance and resolve was also underestimated, which meant that many wounded men from both sides could not be retrieved in time and many bodies were left to rot where they fell.

The Lone Pine Memorial below commemorates almost 5,000 ANZACs with no known grave. Cemeteries at Ari Burnu, The Nek, Chunuk Bair etc, have more names engraved on the ‘missing in action’ wall than actual grave sites, and every time there is restoration work done they find more bones.

Part of the Memorial Wall at Lone Pine

Part of the Memorial Wall at Lone Pine

The entire peninsula is effectively one giant graveyard.

 

Nek Memorial

The Saddest, Most Beautiful Cemetery in the World – The Nek

The flower of the youth of Victoria and Western Australia fell in that attempt. Charles Bean, Historian.

The battle at the Nek was immortalised in the 1981 Australian movie ‘Gallipoli’, directed by Peter Weir. As a boy in high school this movie became standard viewing for our studies in history, but it wasn’t until I stood at the Nek that I fully appreciated the futility of the attack.

On the 7th August 1915 four waves of Australian soldiers were slaughtered in a poorly managed assault on Turkish lines that were well protected by heavy machine gun fire. The artillery barrage finished early for reasons that still remain unknown, allowing the Turks to flood back into the trenches and prepare for our attack. The first wave, 150 men, were cut down within seconds. Two minutes later another 150 men were sent to their doom. During the confusion and chaos it was reported that flares were spotted in the Turkish trenches meaning that some of our men had made it across. The major in charge ordered the third wave to push forwards. Most were cut down before they could exit the trench.

At 5:15am the fourth wave made a premature charge into a hail of bullets. At the conclusion of the ill-fated offensive over 230 men from the 3rd Light Horse Brigade were killed and 150 wounded, all for a piece of land not much wider than a tennis court.

The width of the Nek

The width of the Nek

The bodies of many of the soldiers killed in this area lay there until the Allies returned after the war. The cemetery at the Nek was built over no-man’s land and is the final resting place for 320 ANZACs, 300 of which have never been identified.

Lone Pine

The Saddest, Most Beautiful Cemetery in the World – Lone Pine

“There is hell waiting here.” C.A. McAnulty, Australian soldier killed in action at Lone Pine.

On the afternoon of August 6, 2015 Australian soldiers attacked Turkish positions at Lone Pine. They charged along 60 metres of flat, open ground under intense fire from the opposition and by 6:00pm they had captured the Turkish trenches. For the next five days the most savage fighting of the campaign raged around Lone Pine and The Nek in an effort to draw attention away from the British landing at Suvla Bay and the New Zealanders attack on Chunuk Bair.

Lone Pine Cemetery

Lone Pine Cemetery

The battle was preceded by an intense naval barrage from British warships and Allied artillery that pounded the log-covered Turkish trenches that were located where the memorial now stands in the distance. The first wave of Australian soldiers sprung from hidden tunnels they had dug into no mans land. They were followed by the rest of the Australian 1st Brigade and charged together head first into machine gun and rifle fire.

Lone Pine Cenotaph

Lone Pine Cenotaph

For the next three days and nights Turkish soldiers attempted counter attack after counter attack. Close quarter fighting in the trenches was fierce and desperate. Machine guns gave way for revolvers, rifles were fixed with bayonets ‘…and men were assigned to catch enemy bombs and throw them back, often at the cost of their limbs and lives’ Sandbags provided little cover and the trenches ended up strewn with corpses from both sides.

“Australian forces suffered more than 2,000 wounded, killed and missing, the Ottomans around 7,000. Seven men of the Australian Imperial Force were awarded the Victoria Cross for their bravery. Even after the battle, snipers, bombs and shells were constant dangers, and holding this position was so exhausting that battalions were often rotated every day.” Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

The Australians held Lone Pine until the evacuation in December 2015.

Wandering around the cemetery in silence I was astounded at how young so many of the soldiers were. Our guide told us a story of Private James Martin who was apparently only 14 years of age when he fought and died at Lone Pine. We found his name on the missing in action wall, but after further research it would appear that he was wounded at Courtney’s Post, which was between Lone Pine and the Nek. Regardless of any potential errors in the story, Private Martin must have been one brave young man.

Private Martin

Private Martin

Lone Pine was named after the solitary pine tree that grew on the plateau at the beginning of the campaign. The tree was destroyed during the fighting, but some returning soldiers managed to bring seedlings back to Australia and grew pine trees on their own property. On the 25th April 1990 a new pine tree was planted at the entrance to the Lone Pine cemetery by Brigadier A B Garland, the National President of the Returned Services League of Australia.

Lone Pine Tree

Lone Pine Tree

“The seed for this tree came from a pine tree in Australia germinated from a cone sent back to Australia in 1915 by a soldier on Gallipoli. Today, this tree commemorates the 8,700 Australians who lost their lives at Gallipoli and especially those who fought and died at the Battle of Lone Pine 6 – 9- August 1915” Plaque at Lone Pine.

I don’t know if I had any relatives at Gallipoli (Great Grandpa William James Roseland perished in France) but standing in the sombre serenity of Lone Pine I could not help but shed a tear.

The Saddest, Most Beautiful Cemetery in the World – ANZAC Cove

Those heroes that shed their blood
And lost their lives…
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
Here in this country of ours…
You, the mothers
Who sent their sons from faraway countries,
Wipe away your tears;
Your sons are now lying in our bosom
And are in peace.
After having lost their lives on this land
They have become our sons as well. – Mustafa Kemal Atatürk 1934.

Standing on the beach at ANZAC Cove you realise the hopelessness of the situation. Although the landscape in 1915 was devoid of trees (the majority of which had been cut down by local villagers over the years – mainly for firewood) it was still as steep and unforgiving as it is today. The lack of foliage may have facilitated troop movement for the ANZACs, but it also meant there was no cover from the Turkish resistance that was getting stronger every hour as reinforcements arrived. You can only wonder what was going through the mind of a young soldier as he clambered out of a leaky rowboat and started hurtling himself up a hill under fire from above.

Sphinx, Russell’s Top and Plugge’s Plateau in Black and White

Sphinx, Russell’s Top and Plugge’s Plateau today

“According to the article 2 of the Law on Administration of Provinces No. 5442 the Turkish Government has decided to name the coast that is located between the longitude 26 16 39 and the latitude 40 14 13 of the Gallipoli peninsula as ‘THE ANZAC COVE’ to the memory of those soldiers belonging to the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who landed here on 25 April 1915 during the campaign of Dardanelles which constitutes one of the most glorious wars on our history and whic (sic) also has an important place in world history.” Plaque laid at ANZAC Cove April 17th 1985 – Image below.

The Allied objectives in 1915 were simple. Land at Gallipoli, capture Istanbul and provide a supply route to Russia. This would have opened another front against Germany and its ally Austria-Hungary. It wasn’t to be.

“From the beach, groups of men rushed up steep, scrub-covered slopes towards the high ground. At first the few Turkish defenders were pushed back. Isolated groups of Australians and New Zealanders fought their way to where they could see the Dardanelles. As the day progressed Turkish resistance strengthened. By nightfall none of the objectives had been reached. The commanders on the spot recommended withdrawal but were ordered instead to dig in and hold on.” Gallipoli Peninsula Peace Park.

ANZAC Cove Today

ANZAC Cove Today

The beach head at ANZAC Cove was 600 metres long, but only 20 metres wide meaning that there was not much space to launch a successful military campaign. Supplies could only come in at night and they had to be carried via donkey to the front line. Casualties had to be evacuated the same way. Thousands of men lived in dugouts during the 240 day campaign coping with oppressive heat, freezing cold, swarms of flies, bully beef, artillery shells and sniper fire, at all times surrounded by the stench of death.

You have got through the difficult business, now you dig, dig, dig, until you are safe. General Sir Ian Hamilton. British commander-in-chief, Gallipoli.

As the ANZACs dug in for dear life the British landed at Cape Helles and were met by fierce Turkish resistance who kept the British pinned down on the tip of the peninsula. On the 6th May a combined assault using ANZACs, French and British troops was planned but little progress was made for the next two days. On the 8th May the ANZACs were ordered to push forward towards the village of Krithia. Unfortunately the enemy had set their own lines and over 1,000 Australians and 800 New Zealanders were killed or wounded.

Sir, this is a sheer waste of good men. Joseph Gasparich, New Zealand soldier, Krithia, 8 May 1915.

ANZAC Commemorative Site

ANZAC Commemorative Site

On the 19th May the Turks mounted a counter attack. Wave after wave of Turkish soldiers slammed into the ANZAC trenches only to be met with such desperate and concentrated fire. At the conclusion of the battle 0ver 10,000 Turkish soldiers were wounded and approximately 3,000 lay dead. The ANZACs lost 160 dead and 468 wounded. Horribly, the dead Turks lay out on no mans land until the 24th May when a temporary truce was declared so that the bodies could be retrieved for burial.

The Sphinx

The Sphinx

“As the summer heat intensified, conditions on Gallipoli deteriorated. Primitive sanitation led to a plague of flies and the outbreak of disease. Thousands of men were evacuated suffering from dysentery, diarrhoea, and enteric fever…Men suffered particularly from lice in their clothing. Morale sank as the prospect of victory receded. Many came to feel they would never leave Gallipoli alive.” Gallipoli Peninsula Peace Park.

The stalemate remained for several months.

ANZAC

ANZAC

The Saddest, Most Beautiful Cemetery in the World – Ari Burnu

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.

Beach at Ari Burnu

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.

The Target

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.

The Cenotaph at Ari Burnu