Having based ourselves at Boomerang Bar for a couple of nights, we spent a day exploring the Gallipoli Peninsular, with the obvious focus of its particularly bloody history.
Strategically vital throughout history, the 60km long and 18km wide narrow peninsular forms the northwest side of the Dardanelles, which links the Aegean Sea with the Sea of Marmara. It was particularly important during the First World War, forming part of the Ottoman Empire. Allied control of the Dardanelles would allow them to attack the Ottoman Empire from the south, hence opening up a new front, and relieving pressure on the Western Front where the Allies were very much on the defensive. Additionally, it would allow an all year round shipping lane through which aid could be given to the struggling Russian Empire. After two failed attempts to force the straights open by naval bombardment, the Allies landed troops on the peninsular on April 25th 1915. First, ANZAC troops landed at Kabatepe beach (now renamed ANZAC cove), followed by British, French on the southern tip of the peninsular, and an additional New Zealand force later in the day.
Being based in Eceabat, we started the day by looking at the reconstructed trench system showing the closeness of the battlefield, as in some sections of the front lines, the trenches were only 8m apart. This was accompanied by a memorial depicting the heroism of the Turkish gunners, and their supposed chivalry in helping wounded Allied soldiers.
The village of Kilitbahir is a short drive down the coast from Eceabat and is the site of two major historical interests. The first is a huge 15th Century castle, and the second is a major network of artillery bunkers and shore battery gun emplacements, used up until the 1960s, but most notably as part of the Ottoman defence system against the Allied fleet in 1915.
On the southern tip of the peninsular where the British landed, is the huge Cape Helles Memorial, which pays tribute to the 264,000 British (including a significant contingent of Indian and Gurkha troops), who either have no known resting point, or who lost their lives at sea. Inscribed on its white walls are also the names of the numerous Allied Naval vessels sunk in these waters during the war.
We were particularly struck by the difference in feel between the Allied and the Turkish cemeteries that we visited. The Turkish cemeteries seemed to be much more of a celebration of their dead rather than a memorial, with huge Turkish flags flying, and inscriptions and statues depicting the courage shown by the ‘outgunned valiant Turkish troops as they fought of the Allied invaders’. The battles on the Gallipoli Peninsular are portrayed (arguably correctly) as the final successful defence of the ailing Ottoman Empire, and the birth of ‘modern’ Turkey.
Our final stop was at Anzac cove, where there is a memorial right on the coast where the ANZAC troops landed on April 25th (now known as ANZAC day – which has as much significance as our Armistice Day). You can clearly still see the key features of the battlefield such as the ‘Sphinx’, ‘Dead-man’s Ridge’ and ‘Shrapnel Alley’.
The coastline is beautiful, and the sea inviting, so true to form, we jumped in a respectful few kilometres away from ANZAC cove. Giant skimming stones were found (most effective technique was as if throwing a discus), before we returned to Boomerang Bar for some minor mechanics and Coby’s stuffed peppers.