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

 

24 hours in the desert – Dew, Death and Dance Steps

Early mornings in the desert show you how lively the nights must have been. Small shrubs glistened with dew drops and the footprints of various animals lined the sandy floor like a dance studio for beginners. Before the heat of the day the desert offers up a serene landscape filled with birdsong, camel grunts and a misty outlook.

Misty Sunrise

Misty Sunrise

Once the sun comes up the temperature can soar over 50 degrees Celsius in the summer time and if you cannot find shelter then your days are numbered. It is as beautiful as it is deadly.

Palm Corpse

Palm Corpse

24 hours in the desert – sleeping on the sand

Hamid is a Bedouin.  His family have lived in the desert for generations. He is one of three sons and two daughters.  His family live in the local village, breed camels and run a desert camp where people can experience some of what life is like.

Hamid welcomed us to Nomadic Desert Camp and after we stowed our things we went for a drive.  The camp is basic and beautiful.  Each hut has 2 single beds (you can push them together if you would like to), a table and small chairs outside.  Showers are at the back of the camp, work very well and surprisingly large. There is no electricity in the camp.

Before our drive we visited a camel that was resident in the camp.  And if you think Matthew was nervous, he was.

Hamid drove us to where his family’s camels are.  Camels roam freely unless rounded up.  Pregnant females are penned just prior to giving birth to help them when the time comes and also to make sure that the foal can suckle. This is Hamid’s grumpy, feisty camel who has just given birth and loves him.  Surprisingly camel hair is very soft, especially the foals – we were asked not to touch her back as it wasn’t yet fully formed. 

Camels in the Middle East have a variety of purposes – meat and milk of course, but also camel racing and beauty contents (I kid you not). 

After camels we drove further into the sand dunes to watch the sunset while Hamid built the fire.

After sunset coffee and dates are served. Right hands only are washed in a finger bowl and then dates are offered along with rich, sweet, thick Omani coffee.  Your cup is filled and refilled until you shake it to indicate you’ve had enough.

We are a mixed group from all over the planet and while we are chatting Hamid quietly excuses himself, walks to the ridge facing the sunset and prays.

Then it’s back to camp for a dinner and time to sit around the campfire in the Majlis.

Next day Hamid is up early making bread on the fire ready for breakfast.  It is served along with humous, Arabic breads, coffee and fresh camel milk still warm (from the camel Matthew met in the morning).  We took a stroll before breakfast and this is what we found.

While we were breakfasting these camels were being got ready for our camel ride – the last experience before leaving the camp.

24 hours in the desert – Wadi Bani Khalid

Ana has lived in Muscat for several years and took us into the desert for 24 hours.  First stop Wadi Bani Khalid. Drive over the mountains that frame Muscat one side (the sea is on the other) and into a valley of desert, mountains, villages and trails.

What does wadi mean? Wadi is an Arabic term traditionally referring to a valley.  Sometimes it may refer to a dry riverbed that contains water only during times of heavy rain [1]

Over the mountains and into a long stretching valley of occasional villages, scrub and mountains.  The wadi is literally in the middle of nowhere.

When we arrive, nearly 4 hours later this is what we find.  An oasis, with crystal clear water, fish that nibble your toes (free pedicure) and sweet spring water.

Wadi Bani Khalid is a beautiful place that surprises you in how large it is.  For families, there is a restaurant and large pool that is child friendly, for the more adventurous, you can hike up into wadi and choose a pool to your liking.  You will need to be sure of foot though – the trail can be narrow and uneven in places.

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Reference

[1] Wadi definition: Wikipedia Accessed 4 April 2018

Maroubra Beach

Growing up in Sydney’s eastern suburbs meant sun, sand, surf and a wonderful life outdoors. Ok, I wasn’t much of a surfer, too uncoordinated! But that didn’t stop me from hanging out here – Maroubra Beach.

The South Maroubra rock pools were always full of interesting crustaceans, anemones, sea squirts (aka cunjevoi) and the odd blue ringed octopus to which we gave a wide berth. If the north-south runway at Kingsford-Smith Airport was in use then the only other sounds to be heard were the crashing of the waves, the laughing of the children and the crack of rifles on the range behind us.

North Maroubra (below) was where the majority of the surfers hung out. Although the waves today were a little low, and the wind slightly chilly, there were a few brave souls out in the whitewash. The “Rubik’s Cube” in the picture above marks the storm water outlet that, as adventurous teenagers, we walked up inside quite a distance whenever the grate wasn’t in place to catch the rubbish. People have since drowned in there, so I wouldn’t recommend it as tourist destination 😉

Fisherman also enjoyed the rocky outcrops hauling in schnapper, flathead, black fish, sea bream and salmon. About 50m off the coast at North Maroubra is the wreck of the Hereward, a clipper built in Glasgow in 1877. The ship was blown onto the soft sands and wrecked in 1898. Thanks to Stuart Ritchie for the video below.

I have a lot of wonderful memories of Maroubra as a child, a teenager, an adult and a dad, but my fondest occurred earlier this year when Heidi and I got married at Mistral Point overlooking my favourite beach in Sydney.

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

According to Wikipedia, in 1992 His Royal Highness Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said held a competition to design and build a Grand Mosque. Construction took six years to complete and the result is a stunning reflection of Islamic architecture.

The mosque occupies an area of approximately 416,000 square metres and can accommodate up to 20,000 worshipers within the grounds.

The external dimensions of the main prayer hall are 74m x 74m, with a central dome that rises 50 metres from the ground. Up to 6,500 people can pray at any one time within the main hall.

Intricate architecture inside the dome.

Intricate architecture inside the dome.

Hanging within the dome is the former Guinness world record holding 14 metre high Swarovski crystal chandelier that weighs a staggering 8.5 tonnes. It took four years to build and, until recently, was the largest chandelier in the world.

Underneath the 600,000+ glittering Swarovski crystals is arguably the second biggest hand-woven carpet in the world comprising 1,700 million knots and weighing 21 tonnes. Apparently it took 600 Iranian women 4 years to make. The size and scale of this rug made it hard to photograph properly.

There are sixteen smaller chandeliers lining the edges of the main prayer hall.The mosaic pattern of the Mihrab (below) deserved a closer inspection however the crowds on the day of our visit just would not allow this to happen. Built in the traditional semi-circular way the Mihrab indicates the direction of Mecca and hence the direction that worshipers should face when praying.

Buildings and walls surrounding the main prayer hall were inspired by traditional Omani fort architecture and incorporate verses of the Quran into the design.

Many of the internal walls have small niche’s like the one below that incorporate the Islamic motifs of other cultures. This one reflects ‘a contemporary interpretation of the patterns and designs which flourished during the reign of Tamerlane (1336-1405 AD) ruler of Central Asia’.

There are also fine marble ablution rooms for men and women.

Within the grounds are five minarets that symbolise the five pillars of Islam being Shahada (faith), Salat (prayer), Zakat (charity), Sawm (fasting) and Hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca). The four smaller minarets occupy the corners of the mosque and a larger central one located adjacent to the dome.

The height of the central minaret (below) reaches 91.5m and has a 10.9 metre square base. From here the call to prayer is broadcast over the city six times a day.

Non-Muslims are welcome to visit the Grand Mosque between 8:00am and 11:00am any day other than Friday and it is definitely worth a visit. Please dress conservatively though out of respect for your hosts. Men should wear long trousers and have their shoulders covered, whilst women should have a covered head and arms, with either long trousers or a long skirt.

If you are unable to visit the Grand Mosque please feel free to check out the 360 degree virtual tour provided by the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque official website.

Islamic Art and Architecture Vol. 5 – Art of War

Our final post on Islamic Art and Architecture looks at the military. The 15th century war mask above was used in both Turkey and western Iran to motivate troops. The story told to us by the guide was that the commanding officer would charge into battle wearing the mask. Should he be killed then the next in command would quickly don the mask so that the infantrymen would think their leader was invincible. The mask also hid the pain from his face from the wounds he would undoubtedly have received from fierce face-to-face combat.

Turkish turban helmet from the early 16th century.

 

Ivory Italian Oliphant (Hunting Horn) c11th or 12th century.

 

Turkish axe and shield from the late 16th – early 17th century.

 

A 17th century Indian priming flask made of ivory, steel and glass, for loading early versions of muskets.

 

Dagger and Scabbard from India c1800. Made of steel, jade, rubies, emeralds, diamonds, gold and velvet.

 

Carved Afghanistan Cenotaph 1455 AD.