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Remembered Today:

A visit to Gallipoli 40 years and 5 months later


Creafield
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I last visited Turkey in April 1974 enroute from Lebanon to England. I went on a two day trip to Peninsula, aged 26. I can really only remember vignettes of places as I will describe.

Firstly a drive-yourself trip to Gallipoli is perfectly safe, convenient and really the only way to go if not on a tour.

Secondly the area around Anzac is now covered in pine trees of various varieties. This makes the topography very difficult to understand compared to 1974 when there were very few in the Anzac area. I wondered what would happen if a bushfire happened in years to come Anzac is a tough place

Arriving at Ataturk at 4.30pm on Monday afternoon we hired a car from SIXT at Istanbul airport and drove 4kms North to the Holiday Inn. Our Garmin Sat Nav, which I had pre-loaded with destinations in France, Belgium, England and Turkey, instantly got us lost I had keyed in the incorrect Holiday Inn!!. We eventually arrived at the Inn after half an hour exploring some very isolated parts of Istanbul. The traffic was fine, nobody tried to kill us.

Next day the 350km drive to Gallipoli was a revelation perfect new roads on the Tollway (E80), on the D110 and the D550 almost to Eceabat. A small note .. if you do a Google Maps route from Ataturk to Eceabat it shows turning off the road towards Sarkoy. The Garmin wanted us to go to Kesan which we did a perfect road. All in all a very relaxing trip.

With my back injury, long walks were out of the question. However I was determined to do the walk from the Coast up past Shell Green Cemetery and onwards to Lone Pine. At the time I regretted it 500m above Shell Green, sitting here Im glad I persisted.

Driving from Eceabat to Anzac and then the coast road up to Hill 60 and beyond on perfectly formed new tar roads. Unfortunately they have been built on top of the road underneath so that it is almost impossible to pull over to the side of the road without going over a lip that is at least 20cms in height in places. OK for a Range Rover, not for a BMW 116, so this makes for those quick stops quite difficult.

Similarly with the one way loop to Lone Pine, the Nek and the 57th Memorial.

The trip from Eceabat to the VERY large Turkish visitor Centre is 10 minute or so, from there you can drive south to Helles and do a loop around to Eceabat, a MOST interesting drive.

Or continue on past the center down the hill to the Y in the road, the left hand goes to Anzac Cove, onto Fishermans Hut and Embarkation and the NZ Outpost Cemeteries you can then drive on past Hill 60 and onwards to Suvla.

If you take the right hand fork remember this is a ONE way road it goes past Lone Pine, Johnstons Jolly, the Nek and the Turkish 57th Memorial. However be aware that it is not uncommon to meet a car coming the other way so keep right!! We met 2 in 4 loops.

What astounded me and made much of the Anzac area unrecognizable was the amount of trees that have grown since 1974. In my memory I can visualize almost a scrubby heath over most of the Anzac area with a few Pine trees and Olive trees. A poster has commented on this before in the forum and I found it difficult to orient myself because of the trees, even with good maps.

In 1974 Shell Green Cemetery had no trees around it and the view over the sea and to the South was stunning. Now you have to walk behind the cemetery onto the little ridge to see this view.

The Nek is a shadow of its former self. Standing at the Australian Trench line in 1974 there was an uninterrupted view towards Mehmets Memorial, over the Nek Cemetery. The wall of the Nek Cemetery is there but now there are two lines of trees/shrubs hiding the direct view over no mans land toward the Memorial, and hence the Turkish trenches.

The Nek seems to have eroded over both sides of the ridge and now would only be about 40m across I recall it as much wider in74, although that could have been because of so few trees.

Despite that and being 40 years older the feeling of the tragedy that occurred here is palpable. Especially if you wait for the visitors to leave, or come back just before Sunset.

The walk to Walkers Ridge and the view from the lookout is as I remember it, absolutely stunning, there was only a track then and the Sphinx seemed to be more dramatic. The view from Walkers Ridge Cemetery over Suvla seems a lot higher than the 200m it is meant to be very beautiful.

Anzac Cove with the trees and concrete wall against the sea is unrecognizable from what it was.

The whole ANZAC area looks TOO green .. the Turkish commemorations at the new visitor centre, with its huge cinema screen is very glitzy. On a Saturday and Sunday the busloads of Turkish families was quite amazing. Im not sure where they came from I guess a day trip from Istanbul but there were many many there.

I was rather pleased they were so numerous .. of course they regard this as their victory and rightly so. I had long discussions with a very interesting Turkish couple on these points. There is certainly a rising Nationalism in Turkey which hopefully will lead to an increasing National pride as many seem to treat any roadside or picnic area as a dumping ground.

I did not go to Helles in 1974, Im VERY glad I did this time. Walking from the Helles Memorial down past the tired vendor stalls, with only one open, the view of V beach and where the River Clyde beached is very moving. There is a Turkish diorama of the event inside a dusty glass case.

The two stone spits are still obvious and the land around here seems far more as it was than Anzac, apart from the houses. Doughty-Wylies grave is now surrounded by houses and it appears to be next to a local dumping area.

This area is not nearly as popular with the busloads of Turkish visitors. In fact we didnt see another visitor, and a single day is not enough.

Finally I organized a local fishing boat to take me to the front of North Beach and Anzac about an hour before sunrise. This was a tremendously interesting experience to see the topography between Gaba Tepe and the Fishermans Hut in the early dawn.

Just as the rays of sunlight came over Walkers Ridge, what my grandfather used to call the Picanniny dawn, was a most moving experience.

Accommodation .. Stayed at Casa Villa in Eceabat. VERY comfortable deluxe room at 60euro including breakfast. Only problem is difficulty with language .. partly solved with one part English speaking person (Zeefa).

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The odd bush fire - not an unusual occurence - means that a visit soon afterwards gives a wonderful impression, So, good for battlefield visitors and, i suspect, for the ecology; it can, alas, have tragic human consequences.

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