Day 116 of 366: Blog Challenge 2012

As I lay in bed this morning, I heard the radio announcer begin the Dawn Service in Canberra. It was 5.30am.

“At 4.15 on the morning of April 25th 1915, the Australia & New Zealand Army Corp (ANZAC) began their landing on the beach at Gallipoli in Turkey. The spirit of the first ANZACS was born on that day and through the years it has grown as Australia and New Zealand have taken part in wars and campaigns overseas.”

As I listened, a memory stirred within me …

                 “It is early morning as the cruise ship passes through the Dardanelles near Turkey on April 25th 2008.

The Çanakkale Sehitleri Aniti (Çanakkale Martyrs Memorial on Cape Helles in the distance as we approached the Cape

Two long figures, rugged up against the biting cold, stand alone on deck waiting in anticipation of what they hope to see. Off in the distance, a very large Turkish Monument appears on top of what seems to be a Cape. It has a very large Turkish flag flying from the top of it and as it is on a hilltop,  it cannot be missed because it is well lit-up.

They speculate that surely this is the place where those brave ANZAC soldiers landed on this very morning in 1915. The 2000 foreign passengers on board the ship are all fast asleep as it is a little after 3am and they are not aware of the significance of this area. They do not know what happened here 93 years ago this day.

No, these two people feel very much alone as they stand here and say a prayer for the 8700 ANZAC soldiers who died at this place (Canakkale) known to us Australians as Anzac Cove.

They huddle together … experiencing a depth of emotion that surprises them. They feel they have been summoned out of sleep by “Someone Higher” than themselves, to come up on deck to witness this moment in time. Why else did they wake up at this hour?

 

They watch in silence, united in camaraderie and understanding as the ship slowly makes its way through the waters of the Dardanelles. The Turkish flag flutters in the breeze atop the large Monument and they spare a thought also for the Turkish soldiers who were such a valiant foe and who lost their lives here.

The Canakkale Monument in the light of day.

They point to a sandy stretch of beach. Perhaps this is where the first ANZACS landed? They reminisce that these young men would have been on a ship like they were, waiting in the cold spring morning just before dawn so they could land. 

These “splendid young men”  as they were called, knew nothing of what awaited them. They did not know that a large percentage of them would be slaughtered as they tried to come ashore that day.

The two lone figures on the ship, recreating the exact conditions of the ANZACS,  feel a shiver go through them as they speak of these things. Without any planning, they have just held their own unique and private Dawn Service, from the very position in which these young men would have found themselves 93 years before them.

Soon the ship passes through the opening of the Dardanelles and enters the Mediterranean Sea on its way to Dubrovnik in Croatia.

The significant moment has passed but the two lone figures stay on deck a little longer reluctant to let go of the amazing experience they have  just been through. It is far too emotional at this hour – now 3.45am – to simply go back to bed.

There is no one here to tell;  no other Australians on board or anyone else who could understand the depth of emotion Australians feel at the connection between our soldiers and Gallipoli. For Australians it was the beginning of the spirit of the ANZACS.

These men had not died in vain. They had left behind them a legacy so huge that their act of sacrifice has never been forgotten. England had sent them to Gallipoli as lambs led to the slaughter. It was said there “were failures in planning, in leadership and in logistics.”

In fact, the ANZACS did not have a chance. But these inexperienced young men went off to war and they fought until the end. It was written of them in “Punch”: “The bravest Thing God ever made.” Another said: “They will never come back our splendid young men.” 

They were seen to have displayed “great courage, endurance, initiative and discipline” as well as good humour, larrikinism, and mateship.

Through the years, their legacy has grown and by the time the last ANZAC soldier Alec Campbell, 103 year old, passed away in 2002, the young people had taken up the cause of the ANZACS. They now come to Gallipoli, France and Dawn Services all over Australia … in droves.

And so today – 97 years ago  – that same spirit of the ANZACS lives on. It will continue to live on. It has shaped Australia as a nation and every year on 25th April, we down tools with a public holiday and we take the time to remember them.

 Yes, the memory of this Anzac Day is still clear to me dear friends. You see, Geoff and I were the two lone Australian figures, who were privileged to be on the deck of the Italian ship the Costa Serena, as she passed Anzac Cove in the early morning of April 25th 2008. We did remember them that day … on the sea at the place where they landed … Gallipoli in Turkey. Lest we forget … ”

 

“Do not ignore the ground on which you have walked,
It is not ordinary soil.
Reflect on the thousands of people who lie beneath
Without a shroud.
You are the son of a martyr –
Do not hurt your ancestor,
Do not give away this beautiful motherland,
Even if you have the whole world.” 

(written by a Turkish Poet)

 For further information on the reasons why there is a monument at Catakkale visit this website.http://www.anzacsite.gov.au/2visiting/turkish_canakkale.html

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