Adrienne, our Children’s & Young Adult Services Coordinator, received a double pass to the WW100 commemorations in Turkey as part of the Government-run ballot system. Here’s her report from the events on Saturday 25 April which we received today:
“Was a bit of an ordeal, but totally worth it. We caught a bus at 2.30pm from Istanbul down to Gallipoli. The first check point was bus registration. We queued for 2 hours in a line of buses for this. The bus was given a number and we were all given tags with the same number- so we could ID our bus at the other end. The next check point was for the people on the bus. Another hour of queuing. We all had to show our ballot passes and passports and were each given a wrist band, different ones for Aussies and Kiwis. Next we queued, again, for the disembarkation point. We got off the bus and queued for security screening into a holding park where there was, finally, hot food and drinks and toilets. We left through the opposite side of the park, onto shuttle buses, then down to ANZAC Cove for a final security screening (and another wrist band to say we’d been cleared) and then a short walk to the commemorative site.
We ended up getting there at 1.30am. The place seemed packed and only half the attendees were there at this stage. Eventually everyone had to stand for the last couple of hours to fit everyone in. There was an entertainment programme through the night with music, singing and documentaries.
As dawn approached the lights went off and everyone went quiet in anticipation of the ceremony starting. It was very moving occasion, much like the ceremonies at home but with the hills behind lit up to visually emphasise the feat achieved.
Afterwards we were released from ANZAC Cove in stages to start the walk up to Lone Pine and Chunuk Bair. The Kiwis had lots of time as our ceremony wasn’t starting until 1.45pm and there was only 2000 of us to get into the site. So we had a leisurely walk through the battlefields and cemeteries, using the Nga Tapuwae app as a guide and seeking out the Kiwi points of interest.
Video: Walking: ANZAC Cove, Artillary Road
While we spent time looking for the Kiwi and Wellington graves, the reality is that the brutality of the fighting means there were few bodies to bury and it was difficult to identify remains with precision. Most of the dead are named on memorials and interred in mass graves under our feet. Many others are still unaccounted for and the battle fields are open graveyards – we found some bones and pieces of skull underfoot as we wandered around, which was thought-provoking.
The location of this photo is the point where the book’s author, Lt Westmacott, got to with his soldiers before being wounded on 25th April and having to fall back. He’s one of the NZ heroes of ANZAC Day.
The NZ ceremony at Chunuk Bair was moving as it was especially significant for kiwis with waiata and speeches made with a focus on the kiwi efforts and achievements. Before and after the Chunuk Bair ceremony we were entertained by the NZ Youth Ambassadors singing kiwi classics with the crowd of 2000 heartily singing along to keep warm and awake (we were well into our second period of 24 hours with no sleep at this stage, but spirits were high).
We then had to wait for our buses to collect us. They were going to Lone Pine first to pick up the Aussies from their ceremony before collecting us. The bus numbers were slowly being called out but with around 300 buses involved it was going to be a long wait. In the end we waited 5 hours for our bus to arrive, which gave us time the reflect on history and the day, and chat to fellows Kiwis. As it started to get cold the NZDF started handing out cups of hot tea and soup and kept everyone’s spirits up.
Our bus arrived at 8pm and whisked us off to a restaurant for a hot meal before the drive back to Istanbul. We arrived at 2am on Sunday 26th – 38 hours after leaving on the 24th and having been awake for 44 hours. We were exhausted but completely moved by what we had seen, learned and experienced. ”
Previous post in the series: Adrienne blogged about her library-related preparations to go to Turkey