Gallipoli 2015 - 100 years of ANZAC

Julianne and Luke directly after the 100 year anniversary ANZAC Service in Gallipoli.

Today is the 24th of April 2015, and tomorrow is ANZAC Day, and it will be exactly 100 years since the landings on the beaches of ANZAC Cove back in 1915 and it will be amazing to be at the Service tomorrow. But first up I will need to get there.

The 24th was spent as a lazy relaxing day, recovering from the last 3 weeks of exploring and preparing for a long night.

The breakfast in the fancy hotel is a disappointment, it was a good range but was all cold, and who wants cold omelette and chips? The morning was spent exploring Canakkale and visiting the same supermarket I visited last time I was here which was amusing. Supplies were purchased for the night and for Grandma and Robin tomorrow. Julianne then had as nap while the rest of us had a nice home lunch in the lovely garden of the hotel.

The lovely courtyard of the hotel. It’s amazing to think out the front of the hotel is the complete chaos of a really busy street with people everywhere – it is so restful and quiet back here.

Then I had a nap while the others explored.

I then had an early tea of modern pizza and then Julianne and I said goodbye to Grandma and Robin and we headed off to the Gallipoli peninsula at 5pm. You are not allowed to go to the Service by yourself so we are joining Hassle Free Tours.

The next few hours was a huge exercise in waiting, there was lots of security because of the 100 anniversary of the ANZAC service and there are police and army everywhere. We took a ferry across to Gallipoli just before 6 and were on our bus at 6-30 and drove for about 5 minutes before we hit a police check point.

On the ferry from Canakkale to Gallipoli, about a 15 minutes trip.

We ended being stuck at police check point just down from the ferry for an hour which was frustrating. They had closed the road to let dignitaries through, and all we wanted was to get to a restaurant on the other side to grab breakfast boxes for the night. The restaurant was not that far along we and we should have walked to get them, or someone from Hassle Free should have collected them for us, but we were in the power of the tour company.

This delay for an hour meant that we didn’t join the queue for the registration point until 8ish and there were about 50 – 80 odd buses ahead of us at that point. We spent about an hour and a half in the bus for the registration queue and ended up being the 260th bus to be registered out of about 300 which shows how far back we were.

But the atmosphere on the bus was relaxed and we tried to get some sleep in the bus.

At least Luke got a nap on the bus.

At the registration point we needed to show our tickets and passports, including Luke's before moving on the second registration point about 20 km’s away. We were in the second queue in our bus for about 45 minutes and arrived at a Holding Point about 3 km’s from ANZAC Cove at 1pm and shot through the final check point quickly but then just as we were about to get on a shuttle to get to the Service Area they were put on hold for 90 minutes. The idea was that once the Service Area was full to let those on the grass at the Service Area to be able to sit down and those in the Holding Area like us to be able also be able to sit as well. Once everyone in the arrived at the Service Area it would be standing room only – so it makes sense but was still annoying to just miss our opportunity to get to the site and settle in.

One tired Adam and one sleeping Luke after arriving in the Holding Area at 1am.

There were screens showing documentaries and other interesting Gallipoli campaign shows at both the Holding and Service Areas. So I settled down to watch the screens and there was a fascinating documentary on the NZ’ers at Chunuk Bair which I went right up close to watch. It had just finished when Julianne rushed over; Luke had woken up and was screaming and someone had offered us a chance to join the accessible mobility shuttles which were still running. This meant was we could get to the Service Area and get the Luke settled. So we grabbed our bags and headed off to join the seniors and others using walkers and such.

It seemed a bit odd but was it great to be heading to the Service Area around at around 2am. Just as we got on the mobility shuttle they started normal shuttles starting with our bus – as 260 had just missed out but we stuck with the mobility shuttle which meant we went through security quickly and by 2-30am we arrived just north of ANZAC Cove where the service is taken.

It was crowded but I managed to get us a nice area in the direct centre by the front and had enough room to put all our bags down, sit down and even put the pram up to keep Luke asleep and everyone around us was super friendly. It was a great relief after spending 9 hours to travel about 30 – 40 km’s but we were settled in at a good location.

The last remaining hours were spent watching the documentaries on the big screens and waiting for the Sun to rise. It was not anywhere as cold as I thought it was going to be and Luke was absolutely brilliant, he slept all the way through sitting in his pram. He actually woke only twice which is half the amount of times he normally wakes up, so obviously he prefers 2 – 4 degrees under the stars sitting in a simple pram than sleeping in a nice warm bed.

Luke and I on the ground at the Service Area during the first hour before I put the pram up. Wearing the hats that came in our goodie bags.

Before the service they managed to get everyone in from the holding area so that was good news.

At 5am an Australian Aboriginal – William Barton came to the centre isle which was only a couple of meters from where I was and started playing the didgeridoo, a very powerful piece; a didgeridoo is impressive when done well. Just before 5-30 a Maori Karanga was performed by several women from the NZ Deference Force and then the Dawn Service began as the sun slowly started to rise and spread light onto us waiting patiently below – 100 years to the day after the first ANZAC solider landed here in Gallipoli.

I had noticed a lot of lights in the harbour during the night and it turned out there were 3 large cruise liners in the bay watching the service from a distance, but what was really cool was the 20 – 30 Navy ships which were spread out in a single line into the distance away from the shore. The front ship would approach the beach turn 90 degrees so it was parallel to ANZAC Cove and then go past and then the next ship and so on. So during the entire Service there was a new Navy ship slowly going behind the flag poles in the distance, and this looked very cool. More military Navy ships than I have ever seen in my life time.

A range of navy ships heading towards ANZAC Cove, with a lot more in the distance I couldn't see.

The service itself was special because of the waiting on the beach and actually seeing the sun rise over the landing area at ANAZAC Cove 100 years to the day when the actual landing took place - a very special experience.

The readings and speeches were nothing special to write home about; through John Key’s speech was well done. I am not a fan of John Key but he does deliver a good speech.

A Turkish military officer read the very moving speech from Ataturk in both Turkish & English. Ataturk is the Turkish officer who defeated the ANZAC’s and in doing so became powerful enough to become Turkey’s first President

“Those heroes that shed their blood, and lost their lives you are now low lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Jonnies and Mehmet’s to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours…. You, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway county’s wipe away your tears; your sons are lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”

It was also very appropriate that the leaders of both Australia & New Zealand were involved plus Prince Charles the future king of the UK.

Direct connection to the war, the widow of a Gallipoli veteran, which was a surprise.

Turkish army formal dress is very different to ours.

The large 10,000 crowd at the Dawn Service.

After the service it was slow leaving the Service Area as sections were dispatched one by one and the walk to the separate Australian and New Zealand services began.

Having breakfast on ANZAC Cove, with one of the large cruise liners in the background.

It is a 3 kilometre walk to Lone Pine where the Australian Service was held at 11am and on another further 3.5 km’s to Chunuk Bair for the New Zealand Service.

So Kiwis have to walk a lot further but we get do so along the ridge where you can see the ANZAC trenches on one side & the Turkish trenches on the other which is something special, especially appropriate today and something the Australian’s miss out on. The 3 km's walk to Lone Pine just gets you to the front line.

I pushed Luke up the steep gravel road to Lone Pine and I got heaps of comments as people just didn’t expect a baby to be at the service and on that rough steep road. Comments like ‘what a baby! Well done, keep it up, that’s the spirt’ etc. Everyone around couldn’t believe I was pushing a pram up the road and taking a baby to the services. There were several other babies around but I think everyone else took a shuttle up to the services, but I couldn’t think of anything worse. I had plenty of time and Luke actually fall asleep on the bumpy gravel road and I got to see and experience the surroundings, the conversations with other people and see the actual battle areas. And to be honest was tiring but not that hard.

A surprise, Turks in historical WW1 costume’s on horseback on the way-up to Chunuk Bair, a great idea and very cool.

The NZ Service didn’t start until 1-45pm so there was plenty of time waiting at Chunuk Bair; the highest point at Gallipoli that was held by the New Zealanders for several days back in August, and why our memorial is so high up – it’s at the top.

Luke and I waiting at Chunuk Bair with 2000 other Kiwi’s.

Unlike last time where I ended up sitting behind the moment so I couldn’t see much this time I was right in the centre which was good.

The highlight for Julianne was when she was rushing back after changing Luke’s nappy she jumped into her seat just as Prince Harry was going past and he of course noticed. He had a good conversation with Julianne which really excited her – talking to a real life Prince.

Prince Harry leaning over me to talk to Julianne.

Prince Harry and the Wellers.

The New Zealand Service was far superior than the main service – it was really well done with several readings from diaries and letters from New Zealand servicemen - one of which was read by Prince Charles. It was a really nice personal service.

Luke was the most awake person at the NZ Service I think, the only one to get a good night’s sleep.

But it didn’t last long.

Prime Minister John Key making a good decent speech at the Chunuk Bair Service.

Prince Harry doing a reading at the NZ Service.

After the service the buses started arriving in random order after picking up the Australians from down the road. As there are 300ish buses the wait was expected to be several hours and after last night I was bracing myself. After about 5 minutes I went to speak to the Hassle Free representative and I found out my bus was here! So I rushed back to Julianne, grabbed Luke and the bags and did a run for our bus. My bus ended up being one of the first 5 buses which was really brilliant.

On the way out I could see a queue of buses that just went on and on back down the hillside.

Our trip included a ‘lunch’ at a restaurant so we had to have this meal at 5ish when I just wanted to get to the hotel. The meal was really basic and a not great smorgasbord but it was nice to talk to the others who were on our bus, who being Australians had a difference experience. Then it getting back on the bus and through to Canakkale at 6pm. It has been a long 24 hours and I am really tired but it was well worth it, and Luke has been really good.

It turned out that Grandma and Robin were fine and had a good time while I was away. After getting things sorted it was an early night to bed.

Adam Weller