ANZAC Day: Dawn Service
As 5:30am approaches, darkness descends upon the Cove. The upbeat atmosphere during the night is now somewhat sombre and the eerie silence is broken only by the sound of the waves lapping on the shore. A Karanga begins. The haunting sound of her voice rings out across the Cove and tears start to roll down my cheeks. 97 years ago in this very spot; thousands of men lost their lives and now thousands are remembering their sacrifices.
The service lasts just under an hour during which time we are reminded of the reasons we have travelled to Gallipoli; the sacrifices made by those men who came before us and the memories in which they live on. The Prime Minister of Australia addresses the crowd and a member of the Turkish Army recites a quote by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, then the Lt. Col., commander of the Turkish Army (who would later become the President of the Republic of Turkey).
“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 now here in this country of ours … You mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away the 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.”
It amazes me that a country that lost 86,692 men on the Gallipoli Peninsula at the hands of the ANZACs and their Allies can continue to show so much respect towards them.
After the Lord’s Prayer, the officials lay wreaths and a Corporal reads the Ode of Remembrance. Just as the sun starts to rise above the cliffs of the Cove the Last Post starts and the sound of the lone bugle brings on a fresh wave of tears. As I look around, the 10,000 strong crowd (roughly the same number of ANZACs who died here), huddled together for warmth and standing side by side in unity, pride fills my heart…. I also realise I’m not the only person clutching a wad of tissues and feeling homesick. Being so far away from home yet being surrounded by your fellow countrymen gives me the warm fuzzies. The one minute silence is followed by rousing renditions of all three national anthems – Turkish, New Zealand and Australian, before a Chaplain from the NZ Defence Force gives his final blessing and ends the service. We quickly pack up our belongings and snap a couple of pictures at the beach memorial before starting the six kilometre hike to the New Zealand service at Chunuk Bair.
Between the 7th and 9th of August 1915, Allied and ANZAC troops fought to capture Chunuk Bair, one of three high points along the Sari Bair range. Capturing this point would put the Turkish line in danger and allow ground troops to advance towards the Dardanelles as originally planned. Fighting their way up the steep slopes and navigating through the dense bush the New Zealanders pushed forward towards the summit. Early on the morning of the 8th they captured Chunuk Bair, however their victory would be short-lived as the following morning it was recaptured by the Turks.
As the sun finally starts to add some warmth we walk back along the coastline (and past the places we stopped for pictures the day before…doh!) before heading inland and up towards Lone Pine and Chunuk Bair. According to the guide book its 3.1 kilometres to the Australian Memorial Service (which we need to pass to get to the Kiwi one) and then a further 3.2 kilometres to ours. As we make the trek up the side of the cliff layers need to be removed, feet start to hurt and the fact that I haven’t slept for 24 hours is starting to catch-up with me, however thoughts of complaining our quickly muted by the memories of the men who’d navigated this terrain before me – wearing more clothing, carrying more gear and surviving on much less than I. As we struggle up hill in silence the lie of the land becomes more apparent and its beauty is simply breathtaking.
At Lone Pine our Aussie contingent breaks away and we continue onwards (and upwards) towards Chunuk Bair. We pass Quinn’s Post Cemetery, Walker’s Ridge Cemetery, The Nek Cemetery and the Turkish 57th Regiment Memorial. Whilst the majority of this distance is covered by tar sealed road, as the sun beats down it becomes quite hard work and feels like a lot further than 3.2 ks. Still we solider on and soon we arrive at the memorial location. We head through security and manage to secure a seat in the stands and wait. Large screens ensure we get to see the Australian Service and before long it’s our turn. Once the necessary important people are seated the New Zealand Army band plays an instrumental version of Dave Dobbyn’s ‘Welcome Home’ and the tears start again.
By contrast this service serves as more celebratory than sadness and at times it fels quite casual and relaxed. As the sun continues to burn us alive (thank goodness for my newly acquired Topdeck hoodie), prayers are said, songs are sung and we remembered them.
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.”
I’ve never felt prouder to be a kiwi and I hope the ANZACs would be proud of us too.
Wanna go to Gallipoli?
We travelled to Gallipoli on a 5 day Topdeck Tour. We spent a day exploring Istanbul before traveling to the Gallipoli peninsula, camping (sans tents) overnight at ANZAC Cove, attending the dawn and NZ services and then returning to Istanbul. We opted for Topdeck as they’ve been taking kiwis and Australians to Gallipoli for more than 30 years and the focus of the tour is on Gallipoli as opposed to the pubs en-route. We had the services of both a Turkish (Hasan) and Topdeck guide (Curly Carly) who were both excellent at keeping us informed over the course of the journey and ensured we were entertained during the inevitable waiting periods.