I grew up knowing that my great grandfather (Grandpa, as my mum called him) fought in World War 1, and my grandfather (Pa) fought in Borneo in World War 2. We always knew where Pa fought, but where Grandpa fought was never really mentioned. It was assumed I guess. Europe obviously, but there always seemed to be a bit of mystery around it. I always believed that he stowed away to go to war.
Turns out what I thought was close but not quite right. My Uncle has put together a bit of a history of both, Pa and Grandpa’s, military service. You know, the official army records, letters to and from home, that sort of stuff. I haven’t really had a chance to read it, but my Uncle told me some interesting things he’d found out.
It turns out that Grandpa was on a Navy ship when the ANZACs landed on the Gallipoli peninsula. We are not sure whether he actually set foot on land or not (probably not) but his boat sailed back to Egypt on the evening of the landing. This is where the stow away story comes in. Apparently, he stowed away on the next boat back to Gallipoli and went ashore to join in the action. He had seen what happened to his fellow countrymen and wanted to help them.
After learning the actual facts of Grandpa’s service, the Pazzo and I had a discussion. It was a discussion about a dream. A discussion about travel, about a holiday, a big one. I mentioned the 100 year anniversary of the ANZACs landing in Gallipoli. I mentioned that it would be good to see the place, given that one of my family members defended our country. It was part of my family fighting for the privileges we, as a country now enjoy, our way of life. It was one of my family members defining the tenacious and loyal qualities we, as Australians and Kiwi’s, are now renowned for.
To my surprise the Pazzo agreed. We made a plan. We got lucky. The Pazzo got some extra work. We worked hard. It all fell into place. It was like it was meant to be. 100 years minus a couple of days I saw the place where the ANZAC spirit was born. It’s taken a while to digest it, to come to terms with it, to work out what it all really means. I’ve had some time now and armed with the knowledge of the strategies, of both sides, the mistakes made by both sides, the number of lives lost, the number of injured.
The only conclusion I can draw from the experience is that it is such a shame that such a tragic event happened in such a beautiful place. On the other hand, thank goodness it happened where it did because the Turkish people are a very generous people and have shown their generosity, not only to us as we travelled in their country, but also to the memories of all soldiers who fell on their soil.
We really enjoyed our time on the Gallipoli peninsula. The people really went out of their way to help us. The scenery is beautiful. The tour interesting and informative. The history tragic and tortured. It was a great experience, a highlight. We enjoyed. We learnt an extraordinary amount and, importantly, ate some great food.