We stayed in the small seaside town of Chanakakle (pronounced Shan-a-car-lay) for a couple of nights. The town has a very nice waterfront area with lots of cafes and restaurants near the ferry terminal. A big attraction is the horse from the movie “Troy”.
We took the ferry in the morning over to the peninsula where we engaged the services of a taxi driver who would also be our guide for the next 6 hours. There are plenty of tours but we wanted to be more in control of where and how much time we spent at various locations.
First stop was the beach where the Anzacs were meant to land. It was a long beach with a small strip of sand leading into scrub land. No cliffs, no big dunes, nothing. There may have been quite a different outcome had it not been for the currents which swept the landing boats 2 miles down the coast to what is now known as Anzac Cove.
This little beach is an entirely different proposition. The hills and sheer cliffs give a commanding view over this beach. There is no cover and once past the beach the sandy cliffs and ridges would be incredibly difficult to negotiate. When you consider these guys were also carrying a 25 kilo backpack and a heavy rifle it must have been terribly hard and the terror level of being machine gunned the whole time must have driven them mad.
Standing on the beach it made me wonder why they didn’t simply get back in the boats and row down to the correct landing place under the cover of night.
Up on the ridges there is a bitumen road which runs through what was no mans land. At one point there are remains of both Turkish and Australian trenches. The closeness to each other is chilling.
In fact looking over the entire battlefield from the vantage point of the Lone Pine Memorial it is immediately apparent exactly how small the entire area is. The Anzacs at most controlled a couple of hundred metres of ridges and gullies. The smallness of it all takes one by surprise as it is not at all apparent when filtering all ones knowledge of Gallipoli through old black and white newsreels.
Not all the big sacrifices were on the side of the allies. We went to the scene of a battle where the Turks had run out of ammunition and were under heavy attack form the Australians. The Turks were beginning to withdraw back toward Attaturks head quarters. Attaturk saw this happening and ran down to the fighting to see what was going on. When he learned they were out of ammo he gave them a rousing pep talk and told them he was not ordering them to fight, he was ordering them to die for their country.
They turned and went back to the battle with bayonets fixed and rejoined the fight. Over 300 died in the next hour.
They did hold the line and supplies and reinforcements arrived shortly after. Looking at their graves, I noted many of them were only 18.
Overall the experience of going to Gallipoli was well worth it in order to gain a better understanding and to see the scale of the area. It was emotional and I can imagine on Anzac Day it could be overwhelming. It is disappointing the amount of trash visitors leave, the roads built by the Turks also are irritating and more could have been done to preserve trenches.
On the other hand the cemeteries are pretty well cared for and the Turks do show a lot of respect. The experience did give me a feeling of having connected with my grandfather whom I never met and that was worth it for me.