Day 3 – Gallipoli and Canakkale
My family travelled around Western Turkey & this site tells our first hand experiences.
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at the Helles memorial on the Gallipoli peninsula on the European side
of turkey we gaze at the names of the British soldiers that died trying
to secure the Dardanelles during the First World War. We're the only people
there and the silence is broken only by the persistent breeze from the
nearby Aegean Sea. We've come here to learn about this 9 month conflict
which claimed the lives of around 250,000 soldiers but to this memorial
specifically to find the name of one of our ancestors - William James
Holly McCully, my great grandfather and the kids great great grandfather
(my grandma's father).
The scenery around the battlefield is truly stunning and we visit several cemeteries and memorials during the day, each with their own tale to tell. There at many stories some real, some perhaps more allegorical. For example in some places the Ottomans who had no hand grenades of their own would through allies grenades back but the allies realising that thei own bombs were coming back started to hold onto them for longer. One Ottoman soldier (probably one of many) had his arm blown off but while in the field hospital he decided to learn to use the left one and returned to do the same job. In another place, as the soldiers reached stalemate the Ottomans would through tobacco and instead of mines the British would return the favour with chocolate.
The battle however was normally much more fierce and
in one of the museums we saw several pairs of bullets fired at each other
that had hit in mid-air and fused together. There was even a story, commemorated
with a statue of an o Ottoman soldier carrying an injury allied officer
back to his own lines after being injured. A famous general known as Mustafa
Kemel made his name in the Ottoman army, ignoring orders but winning the
battles. He famously said 'I don't send you to fight, I send you to die'.
And he was also saved from a shrapnel wound by a pocket watch that he
had in his pocket! This officer went on to be the founder of modern Turkey
taking the name Ataturk.
Our new guide, Tim and the driver collected us from the Bandirma ferry port and we drove for 2 hours through strangely familiar countryside - green fields, some turned brown by the summer heat, with green trees dotting the landscape between sunflowers and a few olive plantations. It felt like the South of France or even parts of the South of England (except for the olives).
Tim is talkative and very knowledgeable as well as being
easy to listen to. We sit with him and our or driver and chat about the
history if the region, which apart from the battle for Gallipoli is largely
an agricultural one, over a lovely lunch in an open-fronted restaurant
right on the water of the Strait looking our over the harbour with ferry
boats that take tourists and locals across the strait to the European
side. Which is where we headed to see the first world war battlefields.
After our visit to the British Helles memorial we visited ones for New
Zealander, Australian, and Ottoman/Turkish. At the ANZAC (Australian,
New Zealand, Army, Corp) memorial site - where their landings took place
and the also the place where every year on the 25 April Australians and
New Zealanders gather for a sunrise service - you can see exactly the
almost suicidal mission they set out achieve. The high, jagged cliffs
look impossible for an army to advance on and give a perfect defence for
the Ottomans. However from the closeness of the final trenches it is amazing
how close they got.