The one with a young Mel Gibson, right?



In WWI, Winston Churchill decided to come through the Dardanelles, hoping to use the British Fleet to demolish Istanbul and force the Ottoman Empire to capitulate. When the first wave of ships was unsuccessful in this venture, suffering only modest losses, the Allies lost their nerve to try and force the straits through naval power alone and the decision was made to land troops in order to eliminate the Ottoman artillery. The next eight months saw massive casualties on both sides with each army firmly entrenched and little movement along the lines. Stymied, the allied command made the decision to evacuate after eight months of hell. This is the battle of Gallipoli.

A mere five hour mini-bus ride from Istanbul over mostly paved roads proved to be less stomach churning than I feared. Along the way we stopped at a gas station for, shockingly, gas, but behind the station there happened to be a small zoo. There was no entrance fee, nobody was working there, some of the cages were empty, but plenty were full, with an eclectic range of animals in attendance. The cages were all labeled in Turkish, so Ferda was very helpful with translations for some of the more reclusive residents. My favorite was the ostrich, pictured below.
After we set out again, our merry band of travelers, consisting of myself, Ferda and Louise, a nice Australian woman, as if there could ever be any other kind, arrived in Eceabat and watched a weathered video on Gallipoli narrated by an Australian and made in what one can only assume and hope was the late 1970’s.

We ate lunch together and then met our tour guide, who spoke virtually non-stop for the entire day, but was filled, as most good guides are, with interesting facts and figures about the battle and battlefield. Here he was nice enough to snap a photo of the three of us at Anzac Cove.
Like any good WWI engagement, everything bogged down into the nightmare of trench warfare. The Australians were exceptionally good trench diggers, their work along the coast of modern-day Turkey and mere miles away from the ruins of the ancient city of Troy some of the deepest tunneling done in the fastest time in the whole of the Great War, on either front.
We spent some time walking the beaches. It wasn’t exactly a nice day, but the rain cooperated pretty well until the ride home.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission does an enormous job spectacularly well, maintaining the cemeteries and memorial sites for both world wars in something around 20,000 locations in well over 100 countries. While admittedly only scratching the surface during my travels, I’ve never once been to a WWI or II cemetery that was not cared for as if it were built yesterday by the families of the soldiers in the ground.

Lone Pine Memorial

Lone Pine Memorial

Here is a Turkish Monument and cemetery.
Monument to the Ottoman 57th Regiment

Monument to the Ottoman 57th Regiment

Near this statue of Mustafa Kemal, pictured below, and not yet carrying the name he would soon command as the founder and first president of the Turkish Republic, is the Chunuk Bair New Zealand Memorial, site of the high-water mark for the allied forces in the battle of Gallipoli.


Chunuk Bair was one of the main objectives in the allied plans, a strategic point on a hill high above the coastline. The New Zealand Infantry arrived first, joined later by the Welsh, Australian and the Maori Contingents. With great loss they took the summit and held it. For one day.

A counter-attack led by Colonel Mustafa Kemal retook the summit and the two sides dug in and fortified their positions. Neither side could gain an inch and the lines remained unaltered until the Allied evacuation almost four months later, failing completely to achieve any of their objectives since the initial landing at Cape Helles, having advanced less than 20 miles in just over 8 months of fighting.
The Chanuk Bair memorial above relates to several battles in the area, and bears more than 850 names. The nearby cemetery was built on the spot the first Commonwealth soldiers who died during the battle to take the summit were buried by the Turks. Of the 632 buried there, only ten are identified. In the whole of the battle, more than 100,000 soldiers died and roughly 250,000 more were wounded on both sides.



One thought on “The one with a young Mel Gibson, right?

  1. Pingback: Intruders | Summer of Baseball

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