Gathering at Gallipoli

Gallipoli1

Since our troops landed there on 25 April 1915, Gallipoli has been a destination of great significance for New Zealanders of all ages. The trek to Gallipoli is even more meaningful this year, as we mark the centenary of those landings.

Some 2000 New Zealanders and 8000 Australians will gather at the Dawn Service on Gallipoli Peninsula to remember the soldiers of our two countries who fought together there as ‘ANZACs’. We will reflect on the passing of 100 years since the 25 April landing at Anzac Cove and the birth of ‘the Anzac spirit’. And for all Kiwis it will be a time to reflect on what the bitter Gallipoli campaign meant for our developing identity as a nation.

For many of those gathering at the commemorative site, it will also be a deeply personal experience. As we camp out under the stars on the eve of the Dawn Service, we will be thinking of relatives who fought at the Dardanelles – like my great-uncle Jack, of the 16th (Waikato) Company, 2nd Battalion, Auckland Infantry Regiment, who took part in the landing on 25 April 1915.

Gall4gall5

Graves or memorials to most of the approximately 2700 New Zealanders who died at Gallipoli are in 24 cemeteries dotted around the peninsula. Besides attending the Dawn Service, some visitors will have time to explore the significant cemeteries, battlefields and other sites.

Many of the travel guides (like those published by Lonely Planet) have basic information about places of historical importance on the peninsula, but the library also has several more detailed guidebooks. These are essential reading for those visiting Gallipoli and are full of details to help anyone interested in the campaign to gain some understanding of the place where so many young New Zealanders fought and died.

Syndetics book coverGallipoli : a guide to New Zealand battlefields and memorials / Ian McGibbon.
This 2014 revised update of the original edition published 10 years ago “is the indispensable handbook to the history and geographic features of the campaign for a modern, general readership. Easy to follow and highly illustrated, it introduces the battlefields, cemeteries and memorials, detailing the stories behind each and offering historical overviews of New Zealand’s involvement”. (from cover)

Syndetics book coverGallipoli : the battlefield guide / Mat McLachlan.
“More than 30,000 Australians visit Gallipoli every year, and the numbers are increasing each year as the centenary of the landing approaches. This practical guide book enables them to plan their trip, work out what to see and in what order, and gives the historical background to the major battles. It gives all the necessary information – both practical and historical – to appreciate what happened, and where. Detailed tours (both walking and with transport) are described, and accompanied by specially drawn maps.” (from library catalogue)

Syndetics book coverTurn right at Istanbul : a walk on the Gallipoli Peninsula / Tony Wright.
Tony Wright’s book is not a travel guide as such but an absorbing and entertaining personal story. “His account of the modern phenomenon of increasing numbers of young Australians and New Zealanders heading for Gallipoli is an Anzac ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’.” “Anyone who has ever dreamed of travelling to Turkey and taking part in the Gallipoli experience will find this book a moving, inspiring and occasionally hilarious roadmap to the heart of Australia and New Zealand in an ancient land.” (adapted from cover)

B8kU-rUCIAAfZn_Ngā Tapuwae
New Zealand has developed a set of trails at Gallipoli as part of the Ngā Tapuwae project. (Trails are also being developed on the Western Front.) The online resource includes a downloadable app with audio tours, interactive maps, personal stories, travel guides, articles and a wealth of other material that helps the user follow in the footsteps of the NZ soldiers who fought at Gallipoli. Link here

WW 1 Display in the Central Library
Drawing from my family archive, the library’s local and NZ history specialist and I have prepared a display of original letters and postcards sent from the trenches. Other interesting pieces of WW1 memorabilia include battalion insignia and a New Testament issued to the troops. Be sure to take a look at these items in the display case on the Second Floor of the Central Library.

Display45

Here is a close-up of a postcard in the display, sent from France in December 1916.

gall6
Reading correspondence from those terrible years is often heartwrenching and the stories and letters in this display certainly convey the pain and sadness of the war.

gall7
Click here to listen to a Radio New Zealand interview of Michael Williams, Waikato-based composer who has been working on writing Letters From The Front, his first symphony. He matches letters from the First World War with musical movements and it will debut performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in April to coincide with Anzac Day commemorations.