Sunday, 20 April 2014

April 25, Anzac Day

April 25, Anzac Day

From Lemnos to Gallipoli and Back

Lemnos off the coast of Turkey, opposite Troy
In 1915 a battle raged in the rugged peninsula in Turkey called Gallipoli for eight months. Thousands of Australians fought here, alongside soldiers from New Zealand, Britain and France. The Allies wanted to stop the Turks from taking part in World War I. Many of the Turks died defending their land against the invaders. Eventually the Allies withdrew in defeat, but more than 7800 Australians had been killed.

Every year on April 25th, in Australia and on the Gallipoli beach, this loss is commemorated as many Australians flock to Anzac Cover, by the beach where so many of their countrymen died. This year it is expected more than 10,000 Australian and New Zealander pilgrims will travel to the Gallipoli Peninsula to attend the service.

Next year, 2015, will mark the 100th anniversary of the landing of the allies in World War 1, and the numbers wishing to come will exceed this so authorities have imposed a balloted limit of 10,200 pilgrims.

The Commonwealth of Australia was just 13 years old when this occurred. Many Australians felt that Great Britain was still their home country and that they had a duty to help out. It was an ill-conceived plan in the first place, as the army had to scale high cliffs, and land from amphibious boats. They could only bring in reinforcements from the sea in plain sight of the Turkish artillery.

Moudros Harbour, Lemnos

WW1 Cemetery at Moudros

It was a disaster from day one. Not only were many killed but 19, 441 were injured and the field hospitals found they could not deal with the many amputations that were needed.

On the battle-fields there were some doctors and male nurses but a large hospital was set up on Lemnos with doctors and female nurses, but many died on the boats before getting there, and those that made it to the hospitals then had suffered from dysentery and heat.

Moudros Bay is one of the largest Natural harbors of Greece. It was used as the base of the Allied Navy during World War 1 at which time there are said to have been about 400 boats of all sized moored here. When the injured were brought to the island they were placed in tents around the shoreline until they could be taken by boat to better hospitals in Alexandria, Egypt. The lack of clean water and the heat did not help and many died on Lemnos from dysentery. There are two very large military cemeteries on the island for the dead of this campaign, soldiers from England, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries.

The Stuff of Myths

Thousands of Years Ago - The Siege of Troy
According to Homer, in his book the Iliad, the ships of the Greek expeditionary force lined up on the beach near the ancient town of Troy. This town we think is Hissarlik, an ancient settlement near the coast of the Aegean in the northwest corner of Asia Minor. Homer tells us that the armies of Agamemnon and his brother Menelaus encamped in huts beside their ships. With them were other forces whose princes owed allegiance to these more powerful kings. The fighting took place on the rolling plains between these huts and the city walls.

Nurses at War

Australian Memoria at Moudros

From, The Other Anzacs: Nurses at War, 1914-18 by Peter Reese

Chapter 13 The Shabby Sisters
‘On the barren and windswept Aegean island of Lemnos, the guns at Gallipoli could be heard rumbling just sixty kilometers away as a large group of Australian nurses came ashore in August 1915, cheered by men on ships anchored in Moudros harbour. In their grey ankle-length uniforms, they made their way cautiously over a stony field while a bagpiper played them into camp. Aside from hospital ships, Lemnos was the closest location to Gallipoli where nurses could serve. The proximity fired their emotions. Starr Nurse Nellie Pike, from Sydney, ‘could imagine no greater joy than to be working under the canvas so close to the gallant men of Anzac.’

Just five hours away by sea, Lemnos was the perfect location for the Allies’ advance naval and military base. The huge, deepwater Moudros harbour was alive with action as hundreds of battle ships; destroyers, troop transports and hospital ships came and went. Elsie Eglingon, on the transport Ionian, captured the sight as the sun rose over the port.

‘The water was very dark green and the shadows of all these huge battleships was thrown right across the harbour, the reflection of the sky in the water as it kept changing colour was beyond description – one minute it was crimson and the next like a sheet of gold, such vivid colours, quite different to the soft Egyptian skies.’

WW1,  Simpson and his donkey

Jack ‘Murphy’ Simpson was one of the orderlies working tirelessly on the battlefields helping the wounded men. He led his donkey up and down the deadly gullies of the Gallipoli Peninsula, rescuing the wounded and there is a memorial statue to Jack Simpson and his donkey outside the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

And Stories Keep Coming

The film Gallipoli
This film, staring Mel Gibson, Mark Lee and Bill Kerr, traces the journey of two country boys from Australia to join the Gallipoli campaign in 1915. This film helped to keep the old stories alive.

The Turkish Story

Soon young backpackers began including Gallipoli on their world trip itinerary.  And today the local hostels and hotels show this film and there are roads and a memorial with the words of Kemal Ataturk, the first president of the Turkish Republic.
‘Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives…You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.’

‘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.’ 

A Lucky Cigarette Case

Recently a Melbourne writer, Tony Wright, penned an article in the local paper, The Age, about his grandfather, George Moore.  The article tells how George as a youth of 21 went to Gallipoli and tramped on foot between the beach and the front lines on the cliffs carrying ammunition. He survived, but he told his family the tale of how he was once knocked to the ground by exploding shrapnel, and when he came to he realized that his tin cigarette box had a hole in it and had saved him.

                                 With the Family at Moudros Today

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