Attending the dawn service in Gallipoli was something we had both wanted to do for a long time and this year we finally had the opportunity to do so. It was a very rushed trip as the 25th of April fell in the middle of the school term and Matt was only able to get three days off work. Therefore we had to fly out of London on Wednesday 24th of April and arrive in Istanbul later that night. We then had a four-hour drive to Gallipoli – and as our plane was delayed – we didn’t get there until well after midnight.
We quickly made our way down to the beach which was packed with people trying to get some rest, huddled together in sleeping bags keeping warm. We followed the trend and also tried to get sleep. Around 4:30am everyone started to wake up and move around, packing up their sleeping bags and sharing warm cups of tea. By 5:00am everyone was standing in silence, looking out over the water just waiting to see a glimmer of sunlight peeking out over the ocean, the whole time thinking what it must have been like for all of those brave men, so many years ago.
The service ran for over an hour and was incredibly moving. It included not just the Ode of Remembrance and The Last post but also stories of courage and bravery told by Australian, New Zealand and Turkish representatives. One big difference that we noticed between attending a dawn service back home to the service in Gallipoli was how important ANZAC day is to the Turks, as they also lost a lot of men in the battle of Gallipoli.
At the conclusion of the service it was time to make the 3km walk uphill to Lone Pine Cemetery for the Australian service. On the way, we passed ANZAC cove, endless beach graves and trenches hidden amongst the trees. Even though there was such a large loss of life in Gallipoli, it really was a beautiful place to explore.
We finally reached Lone Pine Cemetery an hour before the Australian service was due to begin, so we passed the time singing Australian songs with the crowd; such as ‘Waltzing Matilda’, ‘We are Australian’ and ‘I still call Australia Home’. Soon after, it was time for the service. This time, it was fully in honour of the Australians who sacrificed their lives for our freedom. Once again, it was a very moving experience, there was not a dry eye in the stands. With 4000 Australians attending the service at Lone Pine, it was very crowded but things were put into perspective when a speaker told the story of how 7000 men died in the exact place we were seated. After the service finished, we spent some time wandering amongst the thousands of graves: shocked to see how many stones read ‘16 years old’ or ‘presumed buried here’.
After we finished at Lone Pine, we had to wait for the New Zealand service further up the hill at Chunuk Bair to conclude before the buses started arriving to take us back to Istanbul, to continue our Turkish adventure.
With both of us descending from World War I veterans we feel really privileged to have experienced the dawn service at Gallipoli on behalf of our family members who will never get the chance to do so. We have always had great respect for the men and woman who sacrificed so much to give us the country we know and love today. The concept of standing on the beach where they landed nearly 100 years ago and picture it happening seemed surreal, but was definitely a once in a lifetime experience, and one we will never forget. As this experience was so touching, the only way to really share the emotion and pride that we felt on the day of the dawn service is to share some of the most memorable quotes and stories that were read on the day. Below are some of the stories and speeches that really had an impact on our heart-strings. Lest We Forget.
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 far away 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 Ataturk, President of the Republic of Turkey (1934)
Fierce enemies during battle, there was to a recognition on both sides of the courage and sacrifice of the other. Captain Cuthbert Finlay recalled a brief lull in the fighting at Queens Post in November 1915. After hearing a thud and no explosion Finlay carefully approached a package that had been thrown into the trench. “I picked up the parcel, it contained cigarettes and written underneath one of the boxes was the following inscription written in French: Take with pleasure our heroic enemies, send some milk”. After this the Turks and ourselves intermingled in no man’s land for about a quarter of an hour and then “fini’ was announced, a few shots fired towards the sky and everything went on as usual.
All too often, men did not have a chance to say goodbye.
We are here today in their place. To say goodbye on behalf of the mates they served beside and the friends and family back home who never had the opportunity to visit their grave to say their final farewell.
The voices of those who served here are now silent. We are the caretakers of their memories. Today, we will walk their battlefield and carry their stories in our hearts.