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"Battling" the battlefield and rain…




Time is passing and I still couldn’t start with the main narrative of my research. All prologues, bibliography and geography pages are online, but the "flesh" of the work is on terrible delay – graphics are not even developed yet, but worst, the first chapters couldn’t be backed with reasonable photos since by some reason I didn’t get the chance to take some good ones.

Rare 10 days in a roll of rain and fog had not only prevented me from going out for some essential tours, but also turned the specific part of the battlefield I needed to photo so desperately, into a muddy plain.

The sun had occasionally reminded me of its existence today so I decided to find my luck "Paschendaele" style. Wasting no precious time today, I took a bus right to the BHQ station (actually a boarding school, but then I was "on" with my shadow WWI world early today since it had been weeks since the last time I was crossing the border). The BHQ hill of general Meldrum and his NZMR HQ staff is now a grassy round hill with two picturesque ruins of country houses and some concrete reservoir tanks. I like those ruins where trees are slowly disintegrating the man made walls, actually subduing the ruin, turning it into some accessory of the tree – vis versa to what we are used to see: a tree which is just a decoration of a house. In times when silent nature seems to be a fading force (in contrast to its big brother – "nature disaster"), you get a moment of disillusioned optimism seeing that nature could still fight back.

"My" battle was not a planned one. Positions, routes and directions were subject to momentary decisions made by people who had little knowledge about the terrain facing them. Walking in their foot steps is a good way of getting into the tactical thought they had in mind. I spent some 20 minutes on the slope, scanning all positions I already know too well. However this time, not bothered by the disturbing sun and accompanied by my old friends of cold, wind and rain, I could just finish the puzzle. Winter and rain are great times to do this, even though "my" men were fighting just before the rains have started. The disturbing sounds of modernism – heavy machinery during construction, traffic and aluminum mega birds, seem to be silent suddenly and contemplation is suddenly possible. I had one of those moments I love most about going up to the field. Much like some sudden enlightenment saving you from a total failure in a critical math exam, the virtual isolation offered by bad weather suddenly fits your minds into that of the HQ staff that stood here some 80 years ago, choosing the best way to take these bold hills and jungle of orange trees. Reading about battle planning usually creates the illusion that it's merely a theoretical calculation of numbers, forces and objectives. Standing there I could have felt what must have been the true feelings. Those were their own guys, from their own island, sent to an unknown enemy system of redoubts. The ridge and hills were looking evil suddenly. Sending whole formations of close neighbors into the beaten zone, knowing your decision would separate between "reasonable" price and disaster. I was happy I wasn’t in their shoes!

Next I started walking north on their path. Another small hill with another ruin and water tank, is to be crossed. This place must have given them some psychological protection. Here they must have assembled splitting each regiment to its own objective. One of those moments old companions say goodbye.

I had to cross the small stream crossing the area. Nothing more then a shallow flow, but still one my advanced Garmont, despite the wax, couldn’t handle – for the poor soldiers this must have been no more then daily life. At this point I was about to follow the path of the Wellington's. They had the most challenging terrain, and handled it well. This was the first time in a while I was going to do a true "right in the path" journey on the bare ridge. I wanted to know how could the Wellingtons have drive the Turks out of two "classic" positions one after the other, suffering only few casualties. The Turks, as would be told widely in my site, gave up some great positions with little struggle, only to try and retake them little later in a series of desperate and brave counter attacks. I've tried to find a hint for that on the field. The bushes and coarse sand ground were silent. A bum driving some 4X4 hybrid was making his way up the steep slope as if looking to get killed… the noise distracted me, but I decided I'll just do it the good old way. Running like nuts up the slope from several directions was of high success! It turned out that some excellent machine gun job and the tactical use of small features on the terrain, was probably what brought the good results. Looking down from the peak of the first Turkish position, I saw it in regard to my own personal military knowledge - dam those conscripts were good soldiers! Month after month in the unfriendly deserts didn’t harm their ability. I did the same with the second line they took: another rush up, one more down and up again. This position was also taken with little casualties, despite all approaches to it being exposed to hostile machine gun fire.

On the first position I was again searching for some remains of trenches – some shallow long pits might have been those, but then who knows? It might be just the rain water creating their path down the hill.

The 12:30 dead line came so fast, but just in time. I had a quick last rush down the ridge right into a new fancy suburb that was built there a few years ago. The shadows of the Great War faded, and now I had only time to fight.

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