Today we woke up early and prepared for our five hour journey to Gallipoli – the real reason for our being here in Turkey. We left behind the shops and business of Istanbul for the quiet and picturesque beauty of the Turkish countryside. As we drove out of Istanbul, we felt as though we were leaving the present and returning to a past that is so important for both the Australian and Turkish cultures and histories. Lively debate about various subjects made the time go quickly as we passed a 330 kilometre drive to Gallipoli.
Our first experience of the Gallipoli battlefield was the Beach Cemetery, where we paid tribute to the memory of John Simpson Kirkpatrick at his grave, pondering his life and deeds beyond what we had learnt before. We took the opportunity to read the beautiful and moving epitaphs on the graves of the soldiers, loving sentiments expressed by their family members and words of thanks for their courageous sacrifice. One such epitaph, ‘to live in the hearts of those we love is not to die’ resounded with us because our generation through study and learning must try without ceasing to ensure that the sacred memory of these diggers is never forgotten. Each student has researched an individual soldier who died at Gallipoli without fanfare and glory as a personal tribute from our generation to men whose stories have never been told.
Walking along the beach at Anzac Cove, it was hard to believe that ninety-five years ago thousands of lives were lost where we were standing. As we felt the cold water and the icy wind at Anzac Cove we began to understand all the hardships that our Anzacs would have experienced. The awesome silence and solemnity of the cemeteries and the few people there made us aware of the immense privilege to walk in the steps of the Anzacs, and we felt the same distance and longing for their homes and their families that they themselves must have felt.
Playing cards and backgammon in the hotel just a few hundred metres from Anzac Cove we can enjoy the same mateship and camaraderie that the Anzacs are remembered best for, but today has taught us always to keep in mind the real and ever-living sacrifice of these ordinary people through their extraordinary actions.
Note from Andrew: the students were interviewed today by Channel 7 – the story should go to air in Australia on Thursday 21 April in evening news bulletin.