As I look over my shoulder the ranges are in deep shadow. The sun is coming up behind them, flooding the Mediterranean in front of me with light as small waves lap against a rugged coastline. It’s breathtakingly beautiful, with a pleasance that belies the horror that occurred here. Barely visible on the top of the ridge are scattered groups of locals, occupying the same positions their compatriots did all those years ago.
The ceremony is treated with a solemnity that doesn’t ring true from the lips of the dignitaries, mostly Antipodean politicians. “Enough of the platitudes,” I think to myself, “20,000 Kiwis and Aussies didn’t come here today in order for you to favour them with a personal appearance.”
I find it fitting that their speeches are accompanied by the sound of noisy vomiting.
We’ve been here all night, crossing the Dardanelles
from Asia into Europe. We’ve traversed roads built by Australians and New Zealanders to alleviate the congestion that occurs at this time of year. More buses than I can count, we spend hours in traffic jams in one of the most remote corners of both continents, all leaving early in the vain hope of beating the rush. Everyone is rugged up against the cold in what has almost been an all-night party without music. Many of the revellers are now comatose, others merely in a drunken stupor. Collectively they have made a huge effort to come here for the experience of a lifetime and are now missing it completely. This doesn’t concern me. I reserve my contempt for the disrespect they’re showing our war dead. I’m disgusted by them and console myself with the uncharitable thought that they’re probably all Australians.Gallipoli
is not the Beerfest
, nor is it the Running of the Bulls
. You’re standing on a grave.
My Great-Uncle fought here and survived, at least long enough to get killed in France. Fighting for King and Empire at the instruction of fools like Haig
in a place he’d never heard of in a war whose outcome had no bearing on his life.
His children's children would have been my age if he'd had the chance to sire them.
Here on the beach looking up at the menacing heights of the ranges is a good place to reflect upon the loss to my family amongst all the bereaved families. And to consider the consequences of a stupid war.
I figure our country was born here, on this peninsula on the other side of the world. Before this place and its terrible cost, I don’t think we differentiated ourselves from the mother country. Despite the loss of so much pioneering youth, the birth of nationhood is some cause for celebration. Perhaps this is why so many of us come here.
Though I suspect we're merely here for the drinking.
The screen on my Nokia cellphone displays which cellsite my phone is connected to. On the tour of the battlefields yesterday, like every other day, the local site advertised itself as “ANZAC Cove
.” Today until midday it’s flashing ANZAC Ceremony
-a gift to the people of Australia and New Zealand from Turkish Telecom
. This epitomises to me the bond that the events of 87 years ago have forged between ourselves and the Turks, who of course celebrate Gallipoli as one of their greatest military victories. I’ve spent my time here marvelling at their bonhomie and hospitality. I love this country and I love these people, and they really seem to like me. How strange that such camaraderie could evolve from such bitter combat and such atrocious loss of life.
My Grandmother is my closest living relative to my Great-Uncle, I owe her a phone call. As I dial her number on my mobile I pause to consider the display; the wonders of a technology unimaginable to the combatants buried beneath my feet seem to shout at me YOU ARE HERE!
in bold, flashing, capital LCD letters.
“You’re fucking HERE
Kiwi boy, in this place, right NOW
.” It seems to say.
This means something to me. I’m going to treat this occasion with the respect it deserves.
I wish more of my compatriots chose to do likewise.
, 26/iv 2001.