Lest We Forget

Trip Start Oct 30, 2005
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Trip End Jun 19, 2006


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Saturday, May 20, 2006

It was a grey day, a day of rain and tears, of brave souls and proud hearts. It was fitting that the weather was so forlorn as I made my pilgrimage to Gallipoli.
The morning had started off with a splutter as the tour was late leaving Istanbul, and by the time we finished lunch and finally made it up to the battle fields, the sun had left an ashen mournful sky, and it was starting to get a little chilly for us sun-loving Antipodeans.

It was a fascinating and moving day though, in no small part to due to our inimitable guide, Captain Ali. "Ali is a short name for a short Turkish man", he proclaimed as he introduced himself, and he wasn't wrong. Small but with the energy and fire of a tiger, Ali was irascible and irrepressible, and we loved him. A former submarine commander with the Turkish navy, Captain Ali had lost a grandfather in the Gallipoli trenches and had an infectious passion for the history and pathos of the Anzac battlefields. He was also a masterful story teller, bringing the battles and the history of the struggle alive for us, with dramatic pauses, witty anecdotes, and hilarious quips ("My wife is as beautiful as Helen Clarke!"), but he brooked no interruptions from anyone.
He was not without a sense of the occasion, it must be said. As he told us of the senseless struggles at Lone Pine, when the Australian forces dies in their thousands, the rain finally came down, and the sky wept to remember the blood of so many young men spilled in vain on that rocky soil. It was deeply moving.

As I finally approached the New Zealand Memorial atop Chunuk Bair, commemorating the heroic yet utterly futile capturing of the high ground by Colonel Malone and his troops (only for it to be lost in 25 minutes by the bloody British), the emotion of the day overwhelmed me, and I wept.

May such horrors never be seen again, and may we always remember those who lived, and died, through them.

Lest we forget.
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