Turkey is a land of sparkling beauty and arresting sights – but no other moment can match the raw power of Gallipoli on 25th April, ANZAC Day.
It is a day of remembrance, one of Australia’s and New Zealand’s most important national occasions, and an emotional, sobering travel experience. ANZAC Day stays emblazoned on the memory of all those who have experienced Dawn Service on Turkey’s Gallipoli Peninsula.
25 April 1915
Australian and New Zealand soldiers form part of the allied expedition that aims to open the Dardanelles to the allied navies. The ultimate objective – to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul), capital of the Ottoman Empire, an ally of Germany. Unfortunately, due to miscommunication from the overseeing British commanders, many troops landed in the wrong place – Gallipoli. Stranded on the beach and unable to scale the tall cliffs, they were met with fierce resistance from the Ottoman Turkish defenders.
By the end of 1915 over 10,000 Anzacs (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) and approximately 20,000 defending Turkish troops had been killed at Gallipoli. The allied forces eventually withdrew from the peninsula.
ANZAC Day is also a day of wider commemoration, for all those Australians who lost their lives in all military operations in which the country has been involved. To be present at Gallipoli for ANZAC Day Dawn Service is to be part of a great observance, a sombre and poignant gathering in a beautiful part of the world. The dawn gathers, the assembled crowd waits. Light breaks over Anzac Cove, and hymns and prayers are given. Then, a lone bugler plays the Last Post and a two-minute silence is observed.
After Beach Cemetery, a walk uphill past battlefields and other memorial sites leads to Lone Pine Cemetery, where a memorial service pays tribute to the fallen, the many headstones that stand in the company of a single pine tree bearing witness to the devastating loss of life.
It’s an emotional thought – the routes you take from site to site are following in the footsteps of the fallen. Undoubtedly, the walks add to the atmosphere, one of both respect and of camaraderie, for Gallipoli on ANZAC Day should count as one of Europe’s great one-day walks, a grand meeting place of different backgrounds, ages and interests, all following trails that lead through a national park of beaches and hills, cliffs and forests.
Whether it’s the walk inland from Anzac Cove, or continuing on to Chunuk Bair, where the New Zealand service takes place, walking Gallipoli gets you among a place of considerable beauty.
If you'd like to witness the Dawn Service next year, take a look through our trips to Turkey and find out more.
(Photos from OAndrews by CC License)