Anzac Day Dawn Service at Anzac Cove in Gallipoli
Despite having a strong family history of war service, I never truly appreciated and honoured Anzac Day the way I do now. It took an eerie, awesome and stomach-churning experience at Anzac Cove for me to feel a true connection to this moment in Australia’s past and for the gravity of this day – and all days of war – to sink in. I haven’t missed an Anzac Day Dawn Service ever since. This is my diary entry after travelling to Turkey for the Anzac Day services at Anzac Cove and Lone Pine in Gallipoli in 2009…
We arrived at Istanbul a day before our tour started so that we could see the place before we headed to Gallipoli to camp out for the Anzac Day Dawn Service at Anzac Cove.
I wish we’d have known about Sandeman Tours beforehand. It would have been nice to walk around and learn about the history of this incredible city. There is a massive wall that surrounds the city. It’s been broken down in parts to allow for roads to be built, but it still stands there for the most part – like a bad memory or the stuff you accumulate and keep meaning to throw out. I assume the wall was from the city’s Constantinople days, when the now-Istanbul was the capital of Turkey (few would know that the capital of Turkey is now Ankara).
It was a miserable day, really. Cold, drizzly and very windy! Tim was wearing shorts and although he never gets cold, said it was the coldest he’s ever felt since being in Europe! The poor guy was bearing it though, because we knew we might never be back.
It was nice, then, that a shop keeper offered us tea and told us to sit. We were both so sceptical. We’d just bought some Turkish tea from him and thought he was going to force us into buying something else. However, the hot tea came from the shop next door, served in a small and slightly inconvenient glass cup with no handles. Luckily it came with a gold saucer and my hands were numb, anyway, from the cold outside.
It was really tasty, sweet, apple flavoured, red coloured tea. I’m not sure how authentic or good for you it really was, but all the locals were drinking it. In the Grand Bazaar, I was getting jealous of all the shopkeepers who were being given this magical looking tea and wondered where it was coming from. Tim told me they were making it themselves in their stores. It was like they were having a tea party while at work, each shopkeeper serving another from a silver or gold platter.
We ended up getting some more tea for Dad, since he liked the Whittards of Chelsea flavoured tea mix we sent him for Christmas. Upon leaving the store, the shopkeeper, who’d tried very well to make small talk in fairly OK English, asked if we’d be interested in some “silver” jewellery. We declined and he actually happily let us go without putting up a fight. He must have been satisfied that we’d bought more tea.
Later, we were walking down the street and some guy drops his shoe brush on the footpath. Naively, I picked it up and gave it back to him. He was ever so grateful and asked me to put up my foot on his stool while he polished my joggers. My joggers! Seriously. I’d only recently bought them and my soft-material shoes were in no need of a polish! But he was so insistent, and I let him just because it would make him happy. Well, then he started his spiel about how cleaning shoes was his livelihood and how his sic daughter was in hospital – then he asked me top pay for his service! No thank you.
We wandered aimlessly around Istanbul, taking in the numerous temples, bazaars and stalls. Men were on the corner with a wagon of hot roasted nuts, people were selling steaming corns on the cob along the streets, and the bazaars were loaded with Turkish delight in every variety you could think of, herbs and spices, leather goods and brand wear, etc. We passed a 300-year-old Turkish bath and I really wanted a hot bath and massage, but didn’t… saving money.
I ran into Fiona Fagan too – a girl who used to be in the same boarding house as me but was a few years younger. She was also there on a tour for Anzac Day.
Oh yeah – mean and women would walk around with everything on their heads. On the streets men would sell bread from a silver tray they carried on their heads, and women carried plastic grocery bags of vegetables on their heads – now that’s talent!
Anzac Day services, Anzac Cove & Lone Pine, Gallipoli
The drive from Istanbul to Gallipoli was a scenic, mostly coastal drive. The countryside was a lot different to the city and I would have loved to have seen more of Turkey. Driving into the Cove, the aree was fairly unassuming apart from the memorial grounds and statues dotted here and there. It was really quite spread out and apart from the grandstands, etc at the actual Cove, the site of the Anzac Day service was just a patch of grass on a small cliff that separates the vast ocean from a larger cliff.
We couldn’t get in straight away so we checked out some if the memorial sites first. The first time I saw the Cove was from a cliff on the south side. You just could not imagine that such a beautiful scene was once the site of war, where thousands of men lost their lives. To the left of me, as far as I could see, was a deep blue ocean which blended with the shoreline – a thin strip of sand that followed a long, crescent-shaped coastline. Further up the shoreline was greenery which continued upwards toward the gentle, sloping mountains. When we sat on the grassy area of the Cove, however, directly behind us was a cliff which was the most eerie and rigid backdrop to an otherwise serene setting.
As the sun set over the ocean, and I sat huddled on my small patch of land among hundred of others, and despite having perhaps a 50 degree view out to sea (due to the curve in the land that limited my peripheral view), it resonated a melancholy yet light and hopeful feeling inside of me. Still, the dominating cliff behind me had an extremely cold and grounding effect.
Throughout the night, documentaries were played on two flat-screens. They told the Anzac stories through the eyes of various people who were affected by the campaign which was, in the end, a massive waste of life. There was also an army band playing intermittently and the man who led the following morning’s service was there all night. He was surprisingly chirpy, in a solemn kind of way, and dressed in his suit looking immaculate the whole time.
There were Turkish people manning a few stalls selling hats, t-shirts, blankets and food. I bought Tim and myself a kebab for dinner, but they were pumping out that meat and chicken awfully fast. Really, I’m not surprised I got sick. I didn’t feel well for the rest of the night and started throwing up around 3am. I made it through the Dawn Service with only one emergency exit, but was sick up until 3pm when I threw up for the last time on the bus. Yes. The bus. Not my first time throwing up on a bus in Europe, but hopefully it would be my last!
After the Dawn Service, we packed up our things and trekked the 3km or so to Lone Pine for the Australian memorial service. It was atop one of the hills and – you guessed it – had one lone pine tree atop its peak, among all the graves. It was a beautiful area and I could see all the way out to sea on the left, as far as the eye could see across land behind me to the south and to my right, and to the north was the Kiwi memorial site a few kilometres ahead.
It was a nice day and the night hadn’t been too cold. It helped being rugged up, beanie and scarf, etc, and to have a good sleeping bag, but it wasn’t as cold as I’d expected. Even though the weather was nice on Anzac Day, I kept my hoodie on the whole time and even fell asleep on Tim’s lap under the sun during the Aussie 11am memorial service – I know that’s not good, but I still felt so sick! I had a couple of hours’ sleep the night before, but more and more people arrived throughout the night and we had to squish up on the grass and sit up until the Dawn Service. I just felt sorry for the people in the grandstands who had been there since the afternoon. It looked way more uncomfortable on those hard, plastic seats and looked like the wind got to the them from the ocean a lot easier than it did to those of us who were squished up on the grassy Cove. At least we had body heat!
After the services, everyone was ready to leave at about 1.30pm – 2pm. We were lucky our bus was among the first 10 (busses were allocated numbers to was the congestion and so people know roughly how long top wait), because as we drove out of the Cove and saw the line up of literally hundreds of busses, I wasn’t envious of the people who got to spend more time at that beautiful place. Camping out at Anzac Cove at Gallipoli for the Anzac Day Dawn Service was definitely a must-do, but certainly a one-time experience!