Today was spent in the Anzac area, exploring the history of the campaign and commemorating the soldiers we had all chosen. The day was sunny and fine, with a cool wind blowing, but we kicked off with a brisk walk up Plugges Plateau which got the blood pumping. We imagined what it would have been like for the men who forged up this steep hill in the first light of dawn during the landing. Luckily we had a well worn path through the dense low scrub and as we climbed higher the views became more spectacular. At the small cemetery of Plugges we stopped to consider the first day of the campaign. Most of the grave stones marked soldiers killed on 25 April and the mix of different battalions suggested the confusion of the first day.
We continued up the hill and the view ahead opened up. We could see the ridge of the frontline where the Anzacs were confined for most of the campaign. The track looked like it would lead all the way up there, but suddenly we stood on the edge of a precipice, looking across to Walkers Ridge and the Sphinx. The plateau was joined to these by a narrow ridge called the Razorback. It was obvious that any soldier trying to cross here would have been easy targets or could have easily slipped down the steep sides.
Coming back down from Plugges we stopped at Shrapnel Valley Cemetery, the one with the most individual graves in the Anzac area. We looked at all the many different epitaphs, some very personal, others simply stated like “A Dinkum Aussie”. The cemetery was very beautiful and peaceful, full of birdsong and flowers. We had a few soldier presentations and talked about the living conditions for the troops. This included a chance to sample the food they were given, as Stuart had thoughtfully brought us a snack of bully beef and hard tack. The bully beef smelt like cat food (and looked similar) but a few of us decided it wasn’t too bad – in small amounts. The hard tack lived up to its name and required some tough teeth work.
We then jumped in the bus and drove up to Lone Pine for more soldier presentations. Most of the Australians killed at Gallipoli have no known grave and are listed on the memorial wall. A Channel 9 crew arrived to talk to us and we walked just a short distance down the road to where original trenches of the Australian frontline are still evident. They filmed us walking through these trenches and interviewed Connor and Chelsea about their experiences on the trip (should go to air on 23 April).
After lunch at the hotel, we returned to Lone Pine and walked up the frontline to The Nek. It was amazing to see how close the trenches were as we walked the road along the ridge, which was effectively the no-mans-land between each side. Small cemeteries like Johnsons Jolly, Courtneys and Steeles Post and Quinns Post all provided a chance to commemorate the sacrifice of soldiers and understand more about Anzac story. The Nek had an amazing view north to the Suvla area, but it was such a narrow strip of land on which the tragic charge took place. We finished with a visit to Baby 700 and Chunuk Bair, the highest point reached by the Anzacs in the campaign. It was an incredible and moving day for all of us.
The soldiers we have commemorated are:
Edgar Robert Colbeck Adams, 8th Battalion, died on or about 25 April 1915 details
Sutton Ferrier, 10th Light Horse, died 9 September 1915 details
George Hechle 13th Battalion, died 29 May 1915 details
Thomas Rodgers, 16th Battalion, died 8 August 1915 details
Francis Leofric Armstrong, 15th Battalion, died 10 May 1915 details
Brinley Richard Boyer, 1st Battalion, died 11 August 1915 details
John Auguste Emile Harris, 2nd Battalion, died 8 August 1915 details
John Alexander Rogers, 15 Battalion, died 9 August 1915 details
Charles Russell McAnally, 8th Light Horse Regt. died 7 August 1915 details