RBL, Kyrenia Branch: Çanakkale

 Despatches, Day 3 – 22nd September 2012

Gallipoli Here We Come

 

By Chris Elliott and Margaret Sheard

Another bright sunny day started with our RBL group boarding our tour coach for the short ride to the Çanakkale ferry which we boarded along with many other vehicles and foot passengers for the crossing to Kilitbahir which is across a very busy shipping lane and at times boats seem to come very close together when passing. Coming into the very narrow dock you find a small town with a few hotels and blocks of apartments and no sooner had the ferry docked  our coach was off and we were travelling along a coastal road past tree clad mountains before we crossed through them to open farmland to the place for our first scheduled visit.

Kabatepe Museum and Simulator –  by Margaret

The first stop was the simulation experience and museum, the coach pulled into the car park of the Kabatepe Museum and we were amazed to see a very modern building.  The original building was demolished in 2010 and what we were seeing was the result of 2 years work in totally restoring this magnificent structure.  The new centre, which was opened to the public in June/July 2012, cost $80 million dollars and has 11 gallery rooms, each equipped with advanced high-tech simulation equipment.  Authorities claim the simulations are so real, that one feels as though participating in the 1915 Gallipoli campaign.

We entered the building ready to start the tour and were all given handsets which would take us through the various galleries giving an account of the battles in the English language.  We were also given 3D spectacles as some of the battles we were to encounter had realistic moving objects.

We moved into the first gallery and started to take part in the Gallipoli Campaign.  At one point we were supposedly standing on a ship and the floor was gently moving and we viewed battleships and other vessels bearing down on us with cannon fire and shells whizzing past, it felt so real and at one point I grabbed the arm of the person standing next to me as a missile started coming towards me.

We continued through the various galleries witnessing land battles with mortar fire and bodies flying through the air and at another point we were wending our way through trenches with life size figures here and there.  At each point there were films of the campaign as it progressed.   All too soon we had come to the end of the experience and made our way out to the waiting coach to continue our journey.  Sadly we had no time to explore the museum.

For those that would like to learn more and get a feel for this experience click here Gallipoli, Kabatepe Simulation Centre  scroll down and click on the video which is really awesome.

Anzac Cove – By Margaret

Our next stop was at Anzac Cove and we walked down a short path to the memorial and headstones of the men who fell there.    This was a beautifully maintained commemorative site and we took time to look at the names on the headstones, some of which were very young men and it makes you think why does this happen.   I walked down to the beach and just stood there thinking how peaceful and tranquil this area was now and I could not really imagine how it would have been back in 1915 when the troops landed at this point.

Around 50,000 Australians fought at Gallipoli and, although there were other landing places, the great majority of them landed at Anzac Cove. This would have been those who served between April and August 1915 in the ‘old Anzac’ area.  Consequently, thousands of families all over Australia had a son or husband who knew something of Anzac Cove or did not return. For those that want to get a feel for what it must have been like during these horrendous days click below to see original 1915 Gallipoli film footage which brings home just how terrible war is..

 

On leaving Anzac Cove there is a Turkish Memorial and on it are the words sent by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to an official party of Australians, New Zealanders and British who were visiting Anzac Cove in 1934.

For those who know very little knowledge of  Mustafa Kemal Ataturk who became the founder of modern day Turkey, please click on the following link from the Australian War Memorial web site Ataturk (Mustafa Kemal)

 

 

“Those heroes that shed their blood, and lost their lives …

You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.

Therefore, rest in peace.

There is no difference between the Johnnies

And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side,

Here in this country of ours.

You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries …

Wipe away your tears.

Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace.

After having lost their lives on this land, they have

Become our sons as well”.

For those who know very little knowledge of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk who became the founder of modern day Turkey, please click on the following link from the Australian War Memorial web site Ataturk (Mustafa Kemal)

Turkish 57th Regiment. By Chris

Soon we were back on our tour coach and went to visit the Turkish 57th Regiment  memorial in a wonderful memorial park which is a impressive Turkish symbolic cemetery, with plaques bearing names of soldiers of the 57th Regiment.It was the Anatolian Turkish regiment of Mustapha Kemal’s 19th Division that led its counter-attack on 25th April and stopped the Anzac advance on Baby 700 after desperate fighting.

The Memorial Park was constructed in 1992 at the top of The Chessboard battlegound, on the lower slope of Baby 700 battleground. It includes a statue of a Turkish Soldier, another of a grand-daughter with the oldest Turkish Gallipoli veteran, Huseyin Kacmaz, who died in 1994 aged 108.

Walking around with our group we stood and looked in awe at the terrain over which the armies had fought and at the memorials. Our guide Fatma told us the main memorial was designed to reflect that many people from other countries that were part of the Ottoman Empire came to fight for the Ottoman cause.

We then travelled a short distance to another notable area and one of the uplifting moments was to stand and look at the monument of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk who as you will have read above, was the founder of modern day Turkey and was a giant among those men who have been leaders of their countries. A sobering thought crosses your mind when you read as below that he was shot in this battle but survived and you wonder what the world would have been today but for his luck and good fortune.

The memorial with a statue of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk gives the following information about the day when he could well have lost his life:-

At this spot on 10th August 1915 at 4.30 am Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was hit above the heart while fighting in the front line trenches.  His life was saved by his pocket watch that was in his top pocket.

Extract from Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s words

A piece of shrapnel suddenly hit me over my heart, I was shaken, I put my hand on my chest, there was no blood.  No-one other than Colonel Servet Bey saw what happened.  Lifting my finger I ordered him not to make a sound.  If it was heard that I had been shot it could create panic at the front.

The watch that was over my heart had been shattered, that day I fought until evening with great passion at the head of my units, the shrapnel however had left a deep red mark over my heart which did not disappear for months.  On the same night, that is to say 10th August I gave my watch, which was in pieces and had saved me from sure death, to Liman von Sanders, Commander of the 5th Army, as a souvenir.  He was very surprised, both shocked and excited.  In return he gave me as a gift his gold pocket watch.

As a result of this attack, the English withdrew completely leaving thousands of dead behind and fully understanding that the Çanakkale Straits could not be forced.”

Note – The gold watch given to Mustafa Kemal on 10th August 1915 is now in the Anitkabir Museum, Ankara. Mustafa Kemal’s watch is in Germany.

Lunch in Kilitbahir by Margaret

Leaving this sad but very poignant place we boarded our tour coach which took us back to Kilitbahir to the Yavuz Lokantası restaurant, where we had an excellent lunch and a little time to look around the area. 

The restaurant is run by Hasan and Mehmet Yavuz and when we had finished eating I went out to stretch my legs and got into conversation with Hasan who was very interested to learn that our group was from North Cyprus as he had done his military service in Girne, Lefke and Guzelyurt so maybe the short talk we had brought back some memories for him of those days.  

Chris then appeared and spotted behind us a memorial garden on the sea front and off he went to investigate and took many pictures some of which have been included here and some in the slideshow.

Kilitbahir Castle and Corporal Seyitby Chris

Off again on our tour coach we drove along the sea shore road and over the high ground before entering Kilitbahir Castle (Kilitbahir Kalesi) which is a fortress on the west side of the Dardanelles, opposite the city of Çanakkale, where there is a corresponding fortress (Kale-i Sultaniye,), from which Çanakkale takes its name.

The two castles were constructed by Fatih Sultan Mehmet in 1463 to control the straits at their narrowest point. Kilitbahir’s name, meaning “lock of the sea”, and reflects this defensive purpose. Our coach stopped and we had the opportunity of visiting the larger Ottoman defensive works next to it which was badly damaged by Allied Naval gunfire and in the limited time we were there we were able to reflect on what had happened.  Seeing a big red tanker slowly drifting by you started to understand how close the opposing forces must have been at times and how they all must have suffered from each other’s shell fire.

Just a short drive away we stopped and looked at the statue commemorating the heroic action of Corporal Seyit a gunner at the Mecidiye Forts and the following is recorded.

Seyit was born in Camlik village of Havran, in 1889 and was conscripted in April 1909. He joined the Balkan Wars in 1912 and after the war ended, he had not been discharged and recruited for the Çanakkale forces, as a gunner.

During 18 March Naval War, there was only one battery standing, on the Rumei Mecidiye Emplacements located on the European side. However, its shell crane was heavily damaged by Allied Gunfire from either the Agamemnon or Lord Nelson battleships which were attacking this area. Corporal Seyit with an unbelievable strength lifted shells which were 275 kg in weight three times and positioned them in the gun which was fired and one shell it is claimed to have hit the HMS Ocean which then collided with a mine and sank. HMS Ocean had come into the area to try to tow HMS Irresistible to safety after it hit a mine but ultimately both sank and rest on the bottom in Morto Bay.

Nearby is another memorial to the 16 gun crew who died whilst on duty at the same battery as Corporal Seyit.

Seyit returned home in 1918 where he worked as a forester and a coal-miner and died in 1939, from a serious lung disease.

Helles Memorial – By Chris

Leaving the monument of Corporal Seyit, the heat of the day and exertion of the walking affected some of our party and I must confess I fell into a slumber and when I awoke on the coach, I found I had missed some visits and now we were on the way to the Helles Memorial.

The Helles Memorial stands on the tip of the Gallipoli Peninsula. It takes the form of an obelisk over 30 metres high that can be seen by ships passing through the Dardanelles. This is surrounded by a wall which contains many names and it was a shame that due to refurbishment work some parts of the wall were not accessible and some members of our group were not able to view family or regimental names but could be consoled that they had travelled thousands of miles and were standing very close to the memory of those that had fallen.

The eight month campaign in Gallipoli was fought by Commonwealth and French forces in an attempt to force Turkey out of the war, to relieve the deadlock of the Western Front in France and Belgium, and to open a supply route to Russia through the Dardanelles and the Black Sea.

The Allies landed on the peninsula on 25-26 April 1915; the 29th Division at Cape Helles in the south and the Australian and New Zealand Corps north of Gaba Tepe on the west coast, an area soon known as Anzac. On 6 August, further landings were made at Suvla, just north of Anzac, and the climax of the campaign came in early August when simultaneous assaults were launched on all three fronts. However, the difficult terrain and stiff Turkish resistance soon led to the stalemate of trench warfare. From the end of August, no further serious action was fought and the lines remained unchanged. The peninsula was successfully evacuated in December 1915 and early January 1916.

The Helles Memorial serves the dual function of Commonwealth battle memorial for the whole Gallipoli campaign and is the  place of commemoration for many of those Commonwealth servicemen who died there and have no known grave.

The United Kingdom and Indian forces named on the memorial died in operations throughout the peninsula, the Australians at Helles. There are also panels for those who died or were buried at sea in Gallipoli waters. The memorial bears more than 21,000 names.

As I left the cemetery I observed the remains of a very large gun on the high ground and took several pictures and as I returned to our party we were joined by the historian, Anton Bantock and he offered to show us the headstone where Sergeant Major Sydney L Hall, (the subject of his book and talk), was buried.

In preparing this article and selecting pictures I chanced on a picture of  Yavuz Lokantasi on their web site and there was a music track. Further research identified the sound track (Canakkale Icinde Vurdular BenI was shot in Canakkale  which is so haunting and when you have visited Gallipoli, you realise that so many combatants paid the price of war with their lives. May nations learn to be and stay friends forever.

Sgt Major Sydney L Hall – By Margaret

We had attended the talk by Anton Bantock the previous evening when he gave an account of a Somerset farmer’s son at Gallipoli and the interest he had regarding the subject. Anton’s book which was the subject of his talk is entitled“ Not All Came Back” and Sydney Hall was one of them.

I think we all found Anton Bantock to be a fascinating man with a certain charm and charisma and as we boarded the coach for our return to the hotel, our last sight of him was standing by the lonely entrance to the cemetery waving his hand to say farewell just like so many national flags that we had seen drifting in the breeze like so many lost souls.

The Royal British Legion, Kyrenia Branch members in front of the monument of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

 Read more of the RBL trip on Despatches:  DAY 1,    DAY 2,    DAY 4,    DAY 5

<

This slideshow requires JavaScript.