Julie Ager and Jan Croggon
Letter to parents
6 July 1978
Dear Mum & Dad
At last - THE GALLIPOLI LETTER - I hope it all comes back to me, tho' I'm afraid the freshness of my impressions and feelings has long since been lost ... hope this retrospective account can convey something of what we experienced on Anzac Day.
24 April 1978 ISTANBUL - CANAKKALE - the pilgrims approach their goal.
An 8-hour bus journey ahead of us - south and west through the Turkish countryside, by the coast of the Sea of Marmara and at last across the Dardanelles itself (themselves?) to Canakkale, our base camp, or field H.Q. ...
With the assistance of the Pera Palace doorman who insured that we would be taken to the right place and not be overcharged, we caught a taxi to the provincial bus station outside the old city wall (the Topkapi bus station, not to be confused with the Topkapi Palace, the old Sultan's residence) - we were well looked after, a fatherly sort of cabbie who showed us the right bus among the dozens parked at the bus station & escorted us to the right ticket office - so of course we tipped him. And so we embarked on a long and tedious & fairly uneventful bus-ride - never knowing exactly where we were - unable to communicate with anyone sufficiently to find out - packed in between elderly men with grubby old jackets & clouds of cigarette smoke, & muffled up women with small children & millions of packages frustrated at the long delay at the bus station in some small provincial town while old men, young men & small boys hawked their breadsticks, cucumbers, milk & sweets outside & inside the bus - passing a broken down bus with its passengers sitting & standing dejectedly by the roadside, & hoping fervently that wouldn't happen to us, but feeling less confidence in either bus or driver than in their Greek counterparts - feeling a growing excitement bubbling up inside us as we drew nearer to our destination - past the Turkish army town of Gelibolu (Gallipoli) & onto Eceabat (pron. Ej'ba) where we waited for the ferry to take us across the Dardanelles, watching the people walking about the waterfront/main street of the little town, many in traditional peasant dress - thinking only of the battlefields over the hill at the back of the village, & of contacting Mr. Norris when we reached Canakkale (pron. Shanakaley) - wondering with some anxiety what we'd do if we couldn't reach him, as it was now about 6.30. Off the bus & on with our packs - the tourist office was closed so off we went in search of the Hotel Truva, recommended by the C'wealth War Graves people so we'd booked in advance, & found on the tourist office info noticeboard that it was the town's only so-called 1st class hotel (we were really doing it in style!) - not knowing where it was, we took a taxi he must have thought we were mad: back-packers taking a taxi for 2 blocks! We checked in, decided we liked the room, found out the hot water (a continual problem!) came on about 7.30, & tried to contact Mr. Norris by phone - no answer! Thinking it was his office number that we had, we checked the phone book for a home number, but no entry - so, disappointed but not surprised at our lack of success we went back to our room to fill in some time before dinner, intending to try again next morning. Then a phone call from the reception desk - a gentleman to see Miss Ager - Mr Norris? - no, a dapper, smiling little Turkish businessman who introduced himself as Hussein Something or other, Manager of Troy-Anzac travel agency who'd made our hotel booking for us - he was most gracious & smiling & welcoming & wished to be as much assistance as possible in making our stay pleasant and rewarding ... Having told him of our attempts to contact Mr Norris, and being told in return that he knew there were Embassy people coming Ankara for Anzac Day, we agreed that if we were still unable to contact Mr Norris in the morning, he would take us on his regular tour of the Anzac battlefields (to be paid of course) - we also made a definite booking for him to take us to Troy on the morning of the 26th ...
25 April 1978 GALLIPOLI - mission accomplished
Having arranged to meet Hussein at 8.30 in case of being unable to contact Mr Norris, we went down to breakfast at 8. Just as we were able to order, a young woman came rushing in to the dining room & called out in a very English voice to a largish group sitting near the window: 'Mr Norris is here - we'd better hurry - Mr Norris is here' - what they did I don't know, but Jan & I looked at each other, jumped up from the table & dashed out to make ourselves known to him. Perhaps taken aback by our sudden appearance, he seemed quite unimpressed by our account of our attempts to contact him the night before and said rather brusquely that we could join the party but they were going straight away - to hell with breakfast, we were not going to be left out of this! So we tore upstairs for cameras & jackets & a packet of biscuits & a few nuts, scribbled a note for Hussein & bundled ourselves into the back of some strange person's van & were driven off to the ferry. The next little while is rather muddled in my mind as I didn't really know what was going on even then - the people were an odd bunch, mostly somehow attached to Australian, N.Z. & British embassies in Turkey I think, some there on duty, some from curiosity, but none I think from any deep interest - anyway, the main things about them were that they established our contact with Mr Norris & didn't stay around very long, so I won't bother about them too much.
Having recrossed the Dardanelles on the ferry, some of us including Jan & I were transferred to Mr Norris' landrover which he leaves over there. First call was Anzac Village I should explain that the areas of the peninsular where the battles were fought & where there are now all the cemeteries of the Allied troops, have been given by the Turkish Government to the British Government - the land is not used for anything, but kept as a memorial, no-one lives there except the Turkish gardeners employed by the CWGC who live in cottages built by the Commission at what they call Anzac Village, where there is also a cottage for the use of CWGC employees & diplomats for holidays, & a cottage reserved by Mr Norris as a getaway when he's fed up with Canakkale - anyway a couple of the more enthusiastic members of the diplomatic party had spent the night there & had gone down to Anzac Cove for dawn - so we called at the cottage to collect them & Jan & I were fed on stale bread and butter which effectively filled the hole & staved off the pangs of hunger. Then off we went again, up the narrow winding roads to Chunuk Bair, the main N.Z. memorial & cemetery where the largest body of N.Z. troops fought & died - there too was where Ataturk stood in defiance of the invasion, rallied his Turkish troops & began his splendid leadership of Turkey into modern nationhood (he is the Turks Lenin/Mao, his portrait is everywhere, inescapable) & there is a simple monument to his courage & leadership there in the form of a pyramid of 3 large stones, just on the edge of the NZ memorial area, on top of this hill looking over both sides of the peninsular & the whole battlefield area, to the Dardanelles on side & the Mediterranean on the other side - there we had the 1st wreath-laying ceremony, rather perfunctory, somehow of only marginal relevance to us, moving only in our realization that here we were, where it all happened, & in the sincere tones of Mr Norris' beautiful English voice reciting the lines from 'For the Fallen' - 'They shall not grow old, as we who are left grow old ...'
A mad clicking of cameras, in case we should not get back there - most photos I have discarded as they were hopeless. And on to Lone Pine, for another wreath-laying - a fairly large cemetery, with a large memorial to the whole Australian force, with a small room inside the tower-like structure, where wreaths are kept & there's a visitors' book which we were pleased to sign - an impressive place, high & overlooking the whole battleground, but lacking any sense of immediacy, little more than the Melbourne Shrine really - at this stage we still had not really come to grips with the idea of actually being there, & being with all these other unknown people did not really help - I tried to get away on my own for a bit, but was still really just trying to get involved in the place & what I know about it. From there Mr Norris carefully 'weeded us out' & sort of put us aside to be dealt with separately after he'd got rid of the others - & 'got rid of' is the right phrase - from then on we got an increasingly strong impression that he was not personally very well disposed towards them but was required to do his duty, whereas he had decided that we were there with more serious intentions & were more deserving of his attentions.
So we waved goodbye to the 'diplomatic' (perhaps a misnomer in the light of the Mr N's later comments) party at Eceabat & went in search of the Dutch ambassador who was supposed to be arriving on a quite inexplicable visit - now there was just Mr N., his Turkish head gardener, Mustafa, Jan & me bundled into Mr N's LandRover - & Mr N. began to thaw, his very English reserve melting away as he gradually 'felt us out' & decided we were alright - there was a noticeable change in manner from professional politeness & leadership to personal enjoyment & sharing of what was in his care he really took us under his wing, starting with a feed in Eceabat! ... At last, giving up on the Dutch ambassador, (with some relief by all parties!) we set off on our personal guided tour of the Anzac battlefield cemeteries.
Most of the places where we stopped I have photographed - the great thing was we were shown some of the out of the way places as well as the obvious ones - Plugges Plateau, a small hilltop up from the side of Shrapnel Gully & dropping away to sea level far below on the other side, with a spectacular view up the coast to Suvla Bay - a peak gained and held by a small group of men, but the exact details of its significance I can't remember - to get to it we had a long rough scramble uphill through the scrubby undergrowth, through & across the vestiges of trenches still remaining - led by Mustafa whose genius for finding tracks & relics was marvelous. Mustafa could see single pieces of shrapnel in heaps of gravel, pebbles all looking to us just like shrapnel he could spot bits of metal sticking out the ground under bushes - tell us which were Australian bullets & which we Turkish - & was as delighted as we were at each new find - his English was practically non-existent, & Mr. Norris' Turkish was equally limited (but not for the want of trying!) but they clearly had a very good relationship & a means of communication that only occasionally broke down (as when Mr N. wanted M. to shift the LandRover from one end of Anzac Cove to the other as we walked along the beach, by M. misunderstood & started off on foot!) - he obviously worshipped Mr. N. running to & fro every time he was asked to do anything & exclaiming 'Yessir, Yessir' at every opportunity - all of which Mr. N seemed to find rather overwhelming - in fact it was a rather funny situation all round, with M., Mr. N., Jan & I all trying to do things for each other, to show appreciation for what the others were doing for us, to repay in kind, to share our enthusiasm & to prevent others from doing too much for us - I think Mr. N. won that battle overwhelmingly!
After Plugges Plateau we walked some way up Shrapnel Gully - having looked around the peaceful little cemetery before our scramble up to P.P. That place was really the weirdest we visited that day - long & narrow, the Turks could not see into it & as it was one of the main lines of communication & movement for the Anzacs, they kept a constant bombardment of shrapnel shells into it - there the ghosts really walk, in the scrub between the high eroded sandy cliffs I could feel them & the tension & uncertainty of their life there - tho' I guess the fear & comradeship is beyond me - it's a very quiet place, cut off from everything outside, completely enclosed. The cemetery itself, & in fact all the cemeteries, have none of that feeling - they're peaceful little well-cared for gardens, unobtrusive, small so not overwhelming, carefully planned, simple & planted with native trees & other plants. But in every cemetery we visited that day after we'd got rid of the official party, tears ran down my cheeks as I wandered around reading the tombstones - nearly all boys younger than myself, 18-19-22 - a few, mostly more Senior ranks, in their early 30's - killed after only a few weeks, days, even hours of setting foot in that place, having experienced what? of life, understanding what? of this thing they were doing - some with a few moving words telling of their background, for instance on the tombstone of a 22 yr old: 'You left baby & me alone'. After a few words giving us some of his great knowledge of each particular place, Mr. N. left us to wander around on our own - its not the sort of thing you want to do except alone, & we hardly spoke at all to each other while we were there, but just understood what the others were thinking & feeling, quite different from the constant earnest discussions amongst the official party. Altho' I looked for names familiar from papers held at LaTrobe, I didn't find any that I recognized - but all my previous contacts with the Anzac experience through studies at uni, my work in the Mss. Coll., & for as long as I can remember through war memorials, Anzac Day ceremonies & talk all around me, and the understanding that I had of the whole Anzac episode from these things, all came together in that tour of the battle area, led by a man with considerable knowledge, concern for the things in his care who allowed us to set the pace to our own wants & needs and who really knew what would most interest us.
Anzac Cove itself was quite a different experience - on that warm sunny day with just a little breeze (couldn't have been more perfect if it had been made to order) with the blue sea lapping gently on the gravelly beach, it was hard to imagine the turmoil of the Landing & the subsequent horrors ever happening in such a peaceful place - its just such a lovely quiet sheltered little beach - a curving stretch of pebbles & gravel, no more than about 5 ft wide & perhaps 100 yards long, with sandy cliffs rising almost straight up from the beach for hundreds of feet - I can't imagine how they landed 10,000 men there in one day - there's no where to go but up, & that a precarious scramble, the sheer weight of numbers following them off the boats would have forced each boatload on up the cliffs & into gullies where they could dig themselves in & gain some protection from the Turks. The thing that really amazed us was that this rugged, steep & eroded area where all the fighting took place is so very small - I can recall having seen only photos of this part of the peninsular in connection with the War, so was expecting the whole peninsular to be like that, but its not - to the north toward Suvla Bay where the British troops landed & to the south towards Gaba Tepe where the Anzacs were supposed to have landed (only a couple of miles in each direction) it is all flat or gentle rolling hills, ideal for attack from the sea there were so many near misses in the execution of the whole campaign against the Dardanelles that I couldn't help believing in a pre-ordained malignant fate for it. We walked right along the beach at Anzac Cove, from the small cemetery at one end to the one at the other, picking up pebbles along the way - the 1st one I picked up was that large reddish one, which with my perhaps over-stimulated imagination struck me as looking like clotted blood - there was a lot of the same sort of stone, but not another piece which look so blood-like, so I kept it even tho' it was rather larger than I wanted - also the little green stone, which I'll have mounted into some sort of piece of jewellery when I get home.
As by now it was well into the afternoon, we were taken along to Mr. Norris' cottage at Anzac Village & fed on soup & bread & cheese & cups of tea/coffee & biscuits & fruit - a feast to which we managed to contribute only a few nuts - we certainly fared better than the Anzacs! ... After lunch & smiling at the gardeners' wives & their babies we wandered down to the beach near the cottages where there are still a few rusted remains of 2 of the original landing craft sticking up at the edge of the water like the skeletons of some strange fish. Apart from the actions of sea & weather & a few souvenir hunters, the whole area is very much as it was when the Anzacs evacuated - after the War vegetation gradually covered the blackened ridges & gullies, until a lot of it was covered with quite large trees - but a couple of years ago a fire swept through the whole of the CWGC area so now it has reverted to the way it was just after the War, & the reforestation plan has been made to keep the number of trees to a minimum & restrict the vegetation to low scrub so as to retain the character of the battlefield - really a great amount of careful thought has gone into the establishment & maintenance of the whole memorial area, not only the cemeteries, most of which we would have remained oblivious of but for Mr. N. ...
[B]y then it was time to be heading back towards Canakkale, so we said farewell to the Anzacs, knowing that we could not forget them now.
Wanting to show our appreciation to Mr. N. we asked him to come out to dinner with us - which resulted in us going to dinner at his flat! ... We had a marvellous evening, with our 1st home-cooked meal for ages, & talked on for hours, mostly about the strange places Mr. N. had been in with the CWGC (he'd also been in Sydney with the RN during & after WWII) & a lot of about Turkey ...
Next morning it poured with rain all the time (hard to believe after the sunshine of the day before) - but we went out to Troy all the same - driven by car by Hussein (we'd ½ expected to be part of a small bus group as for usual tours - but then realized that there weren't many tourists at all in that part of the world, even for Troy) - that was so anticlimactic I won't even bother to write about it - hard to believe when we should have been just as excited about it as about Mycenae, & we would have been I expect if it hadn't followed immediately after Anzac Day. On our return to Canakkale we bought our bus tickets for the return trip to Istanbul & went around to Mr. N's office/flat to say goodbye - but he wasn't there - so we headed back to the hotel, feeling a little bit let down - & met him & his Turkish clerk (who's name I can't remember) waiting on the corner for us to reappear! ... - he & Mr. N escorted us to the ferry ... - they arranged with the bus conductor to look after us & get us a taxi in Istanbul - so we bid our very fond farewells & waved like made until they disappeared into 2 tiny specks on the wharf as we drew out of Canakkale, feeling very sad to leave this place with all its associations, not least of these being Mr. Norris ...
Could this beach every have witnessed such carnage?
Echoed with such tumult?
Now basking in secluded peace
Under the gentle April sun
Where the blue myth-laden Aegean
Ripples softly on the shingle.
On veined and pitted pebbles, blood-coloured
That this was the place.
Beyond, the gully
Once a thoroughfare between life and death
Leads to the heart of a wasteland
Splashed scarlet now with poppies
Amongst shrapnel in the sand.
There, trapped, forsaken
A restless presence in the whispering air
Disturbs the intruder.
To the ordered smoothness of the graveyard
And there weep under the Judas-tree
For those whose youth and life
So swiftly ended, far from home.
Sharp-scented rosemary flanks
Irregular detachments of small square stones
Each personal, intimate
Laid flat against the turf
In a land of a foreign faith
Where the earth still trembles
As if it remembers
As those who returned remember.
This is a place apart
In tribute from the victor.
Letter to family
14 May 1978
Dear Dad, Mum, Sally, Binker, Robyn & Robert
(& to anyone else who reads this letter!)
I am about to begin setting down our Gallipoli experiences for you about 3 weeks after we've had them!
Here goes. I think the letter before my last (London) letter left you all in Istanbul. Well, after much rushing around in Istanbul to organize hotels for your return from Gallipoli 'cos the old P. Palace was full (which was just as well for our pockets!) we caught a bus for Canakkale, which is the major town near the Gallipoli battlefields. The geography is rather dufficult to describe, so maybe you could dig out a map if you want to try and visualise where we've been [sketch map] We came up the Ecceabat side 6½ 7 hours busride and crossed over on the ferry to Canakkale where we had booked into the Truva (troy) Hotel on recc. from the War Graves Commission, and it turned out to be about the best hotel in Canakkale What's more, we found waiting in the foyer of the hotel the 'manager' (a proud title: he was actually the only person in the business!) of the Troy-Anzac Travel Agency. Julie had written to him to book our hotel for us, and to organize a tour of ANZAC for us if we couldn't manage to meet up with Mr Norris of the War graves Commission. His name was Hussein (we never found out his surname) and he was a funny little man who bustled around and giggled a lot. He had arranged to take us to Anzac on the 25th & Troy on the 26th. We told him we would go to Troy, but would like to try to meet up with Mr. Norris if poss. Ok with him.
Next morning, having been unsuccessful in phoning Mr N. we went down to b'fast at 8AM to meet H at 8.30. A lady rushed into the b'fast room while we were waiting to be served, and said to a large party nearby 'Mr Norris is here'. We looked at one another, leapt out of chairs and rushed into the foyer and introduced ourselves to Mr Norris, who promptly invited us to join his party. He was taking the official groups of reps. from the Australian and British consulates at Ankara (cap. of Turkey) out to battlefields. Did we scarper. Hurried message to dear old Hussein; upstairs for cameras, coats, etc. No breakfast but who cared (we did, about 11.00!) We all piled into someone's car (we didn't know whose!) & crossed over to Ecceabat. Thence into Mr N's consulate jeep to go out onto the peninsula to lay wreaths at Lone Pine and Chunuk Bair. These were the 'official' ceremonies. I should explain here that the entire 'Anzac' area has been given to the British/Austn govts to maintain as a war cemetery. No-one is allowed to build on it, or anything; the entire area has not altered since the battle took place 63 yrs ago. Its an eerie feeling, I can tell you. Apparently the Gallipoli battlefield is unique in this respect: compared with areas in France, which, of course, were prime agricultural areas (Somme, Marne, etc), Gallipoli is a great big nothing no-one could do anything with the land either before or after the war. And yet so many men lost their lives over it! Crazy. There are some 36 cemeteries (Austn) in the Austn sector all fairly small, beautifully maintained, on the spot where many Australian soldiers fell in individual battles during the campaign. It was a most peculiar feeling to drive past places like Quinn's Post, Johnson's Jolly, Anzac Cove, Shrapnel Gully, Gapa Tepe, The Nek, etc, etc. All names that I am familiar with (probably you are too) and there I was. The rep from the Australian consulate laid a wreath at Chunuk Bair & at Lone Pine. Lone Pine is probably the most famous of the Gallipoli battles it's the one where five (5)!! Victoria Crosses were won in the one battle! It was a most moving experience to stand by the graves of those young Australian soldiers, in the blazing sun, (it was an absolutely glorious day) with the sky as blue as blue, the birds singing, the wildflowers (poppies etc) blooming peace everywhere while Mr Norris recited a few lines from 'For the Fallen' Do you know it?
'They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old,
Age shall not wither them, nor the years decay,
At the going down of the sun, and in the dawn
We will remember them.'
There was utter silence you could so easily imagine what it must have felt like for our soldiers on that Anzac morning 63 years ago. At Chunuk Bair, we laid another wreath, and all signed the visitors book. Mr Norris showed us the spot where Kemal Attaturk (who was the exceptionally brilliant and inspired leader who rallied the Turks and foiled the British campaign at Gallipoli) had stood apparently he had appeared out on the ridge, quite clearly, unarmed, for a full minute or two in a very arrogant, unconcerned pose, and an Austn soldier took a potshot at him. He missed! If he hadn't The whole course of the battle might have been changed. Anyway we saw the spot where he was supposed to have stood.
Then we all piled back into the jeep, and went down into Ecceabat to deposit consulate party who had to go back o Ankara (Mr N. much relieved, he told us afterwards, to be rid of them). Then our fun really started. First we were ushered into a pastry shop, and treated to delish Turkish pastry & drinks ('cos we'd had no b'fast) Despite our protests, Mr N. insisted on paying. Then back into jeep only Mr N., Julie, me, & Mustafa, Mr N's Turkish head gardener who was an absolute sweetie. Mr Norris took us on a guided tour of the battlefields, and treated us with such kindness that we still can't believe our good luck. First off we went to Shrapnel gully one of the really famous sites. It is a tortuous, winding steep gully, and it was the way the Anzacs had to go to gain access to the rest of the Peninsula. Incredible place really wild, and rough: we walked along it a little way, anf felt literally the presence of the Anzacs who had clambered up the same way 63 yrs ago. Gallipoli is full of ghosts. Shrapnel Gully got its name because the Turks used to fire shrapnel down its length from their position at the head of the valley they couldn't see what they were firing at, such were the tortuous windings of the place, so just fired blind. Not a pleasant experience for the Anzacs. The undergrowth is thick, and covered in bushes of what the Anzacs called 'holly' its not, actually, but very like, and very prickly. We then climbed up to the cemetery on Plugge's Plateau quite a steep climb and had a marvelous view of the whole Anzac area. The Sphinx a rocky outcrop that is shaped like a shinx, across to Cape Helles (where the british landed) and Suvla Bay (ditto). Back down to Shrapnel Gully, where Mustafa found an Anzac bullet, (he can actually tell the diff between an Anzac bullet & a Turkish one!), some shrapnel, etc. He has eyes like a hawk can spot anything. We've come home with bullets, shell clips, shrapnel, nails & rivets from landing craft all stuff (& more) still littered about the battle area just as it was left when the Anzacs evacuated. Its really weird.
After this, back into the jeep, and we were taken down to Anzac Cove. We actually walked along Anzac Cove the very place where they landed. It is tiny three seemed crowded a little shut-in place, with hopeless cliffs at the end of a few yards of sand. And they landed 12,000 men here with equipment while the British navy stood off from the shore (supposedly) shelling the Turkish gun emplacements. Anzac may have been a failure, but when you actually see the country they fought in, and the area they actually won, you realize just what an achievement it was. Those men had nothing they were landed in the wrong spot (and you should see where they ought to have landed Gaba tepe flat, easy, gentle rise, wide beach makes you sick.), they had Turks shooting at them from above, and they were sitting ducks while on the beach, and at the end of the beach they were confronted with steep cliffs and, beyond that, impossible country. Nothing was as they had been told it would be. More than that, they were men from a new country with no long fighting tradition to sustain them only a sense of acting 'as expected' of a British soldier, and with the knowledge that everyone at home was waiting with bated breath to see whether they would uphold the honour of the country.
The sense of utter confusion, coupled with the feeling of responsibility to those at home, must have been rather hard to bear. And so many of them were only boys kids of 18 & 19 & 20. It was so sad to see their graves at Anzac Cove lots and lots of them were killed on the very day they landed 25th April 1915. They didn't have a chance. One gravestone, particularly, I remember 'You left Baby and I alone'. He was only 21, killed 25/5/1915.
Also at Anzac Cove (or Beach) cemetery, I saw, much to my delight, the grave of Private Simpson, of 'Simpson and his donkey' fame.
Back to 'the cottage' for lunch. This is a little place called 'Anzac Village', which is really just a collection of 2 or 3 cottages belonging to the commission, in which the gardeners & their families live. One or 2 are kept clean & furnished for distinguished guests (from the Embassy etc) and for Mr N's own use. No-one else is allowed to live or farm in the area. Mr N. insisted on feeding us a delicious lunch: he had by this time assumed a kind of father-protector-guide role. He was so kind a really typically gallant, beautifully mannered Englishman. And he knew absolutely everything about the Peninsula.
After lunch we went for a walk down on the beach in front of the cottage (while Mustafa did the dishes! Ho hum) and there found & inspected the last hulk of the Anzac landing crafts the original boats that landed the Anzacs at dawn 25/4/1915. Its now a rusting iron skeleton but fancy it still being there (just in the shallows) after 63yrs!!
Back in the jeep, and Mr N. took us back up the Peninsula, and out onto Walker's Ridge & The Nek. We looked down from there into Mule Gully, which is where they used to tether the donkeys it was out of range of Turkish guns. We looked across to Suvla Bay and Chocolate Hill, Green [?] Hill the Bay was where the British landed, and instead of pushing forward and meeting up with the Anzacs as intended, the silly old general decided to wait for the tanks etc to be landed (tanks would have been useless anyway in that country). They lost the initiative they had gained from a successful landing, and while the British troops swam in the sea and generally frolicked around, the Aussies were fighting for their lives a few miles away, waiting for them! The whole campaign was a complete disaster one mistake or bad decision after another.
Mr Norris showed me an Anzac trench: the whole countryside is riddled with Anzac-Turkish trenches just as left, all overgrown now. They each had a pleasant habit of tunneling under the enemy trenches, laying explosives, and blowing the trench & all occupants to smithereens! Seeing the country, it is easy to understand why the Australians acquired a famous reputation for 'guerilla' type fighting they couldn't have done anything else, the land is so rough. It was another weird & moving experience to stand in an Australian trench, looking down the gully up which many soldiers had clambered their ascent hastened, if not cheered, by Turkish bullets! I couldn't imagine how anyone could climb it the sides of the valley are so steep let alone a soldier all weighed down with pounds of equipment. On the other hand, though, I suppose if one had Turkish bullets whistling around one's ears, one would be fairly swift in one's ascent!
By this time, it was about 5.00 o'clock, so we regretfully piled into the jeep and set off for Ecceabat Canakkale. You wouldn't believe the number of photographs we (each) took or perhaps you would? Mr N, once again, was super-helpful going out of his way countless times to take us to places where we would get good photos & handing us up & down trenches etc. Back at Canakkale, and goodbye to Mustafa. Mr N. ushered us into his beautiful flat, and then proceeded to give us dinner After dinner, we sat and listened while he told us stories about his life and work with the War Graves Commission Wot a day we collapsed when we got back to the hotel.
The next morning 26/04/78 Hussein took us to Troy which we rushed around in the pouring rain, got soaking wet and wouldn't have cared if we hadn't seen it. It was all very nice, I suppose, but Gallipoli was still fresh in our minds, and we weren't in the mood for archaeology. The rain did dampen our spirits (ha) a bit, too.
Back to Canakkale, changed travellers cheques (with great difficulty nobody'd heard of them in Turkey; also we get a lousy exchange rate), booked bus tickets back to Istanbul. We went in search of Mr N., who was not there, only to find him waiting for us at our hotel When we got to the bus, Mr N. & his clerk put our luggage on board and fixed up with the co-driver to get a taxi for us to our hotel when we reached Istanbul! By this time we were quite overwhelmed, and kept making incoherent speeches of thanks as we rushed on board the bus/ferry. Mr N. telling us we would be most welcome to stay, almost tempted us to do so but it was not really possible, of course.
As the ferry pulled away from Ecceabat, we waved furiously Mr N. waving his umbrella equally vigorously back, until we couldn't see him any more. How sad we were to leave Mr N & his wonderful kindness, hospitality and informed knowledge of Gallipoli, and Gallipoli itself: the Dardanelles, with the ships plying back and forth, and, most of all, the battlefields were so many of our countrymen lost their lives. It was strange and sad to leave those graves behind and I found it a really peculiar sensation that here, in this most remote and exotic country, far away from Australia, I'd found a real link with home.
Despite the fact that I am most definitely anti-war (or perhaps because of it?) I couldn't help feeling proud of the achievement of the Anzacs, and the visit to the battlefields gave me a real sense of what it might have been like to have been an Austn at Gallipoli in 1915. It's a beautiful place and the terrible fighting that went on there only seems to make the beauty more poignant. 'Lest we forget' indeed we should never forget how far away from home those men came to fight for something they really did believe in and how far away from home they died.
Enuff of Anzac Must go now hope you feel 'caught up' with news at last. All my love to everyone. Janxxxxxx