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Dawn service privilege in Gallipoli

MOVING: The scene at Gallipoli for Anzac Day services. Pictures: JOHN MARTIN

John and Anne Martin of Horsham were among people who won selection in a national ballot to attend the Centenary Dawn Service at Anzac Cove, Gallipoli. Mr Martin has provided a description of the occasion.

Having been notified of being selected in the Anzac Day ballot, Anne and I quickly made plans to visit Anzac Cove for the Centenary Dawn Service.

The bus trip from Istanbul to Anzac Cove took longer than expected, due I imagine to the larger numbers attending the centenary and the tightened security for this year’s event.

With the normal six-hour trip taking 12 hours, including much waiting at security stops, we arrived at Anzac Cove in the dark. The waxing crescent moon, which soon set behind a thin cloud above the horizon, shed no light on the backdrop to our stage.

The night was restless, though the lack of sleep was offset by a range of pre-dawn entertainment, including historical videos, live singing and recitals by students.

During one such song, the ridges behind us were floodlit in a series of colours, reflecting the mood of the music, and the occasion. It was then apparent just how close the ridges were, and how much of an advantage the height provided to the Turks defending their shore.

Gradually the dawn filtered its rays across the ridge, silhouetting the so-called ‘Sphinx’ and other landmarks behind Anzac Cove. The service started, with a didgeridoo solo, followed by a Maori trio, comprising two soloists and a large cowrie shell played as a horn. Various dignitaries presented speeches, befitting the solemnity of the occasion.

During Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s speech, what had appeared to be just a series of lights on the horizon of the dark Aegean Sea, revealed itself as a perfectly timed convoy of some 20 or so naval ships, forming a moving guard of honour a kilometre or two off-shore. The convoy brought up in my mind a representation of the fleet preparing for the original landings 100 years earlier. The naval procession continued through the remainder of the service, forming a moving backdrop.

The most touching moment of the dawn service was the recitation by a captain of the Turkish Army of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s message to mothers of the Anzac heroes. Ataturk was Divisional Commander at the time of the Gallipoli battles, and responsible for the Turks successful defence. He later became the first president of the modern Turkey and in 1934 said the following:

“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives.

You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.

Therefore rest in peace.

There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours.

You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace.

After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”


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Posted on Apr 29 2015

Posted by on Apr 29 2015. Filed under Community. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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