Suez to Gallipoli

One of the key points of difference with this cruise and other cruises taking in Gallipoli for the 100th anniversary is the fact that our cruise is following in the footsteps of the diggers.  One of the special privileges of this is the fact that we get to travel through the Suez Canal.

This is not something that a lot of people get to do and based on the costs involved, which I was unaware of, it’s not something that would happen often for a cruise ship.  Pricing is based on a number of things but mostly on weight.  The price is about $5 per tonne.  Our ship weighs in at almost 100,000 tonnes, so the cost for our passage is just under $500,000!

After clearing the Suez we sailed on towards Turkey.  Again the seas have been smooth and calm all the way. We cruised past a number of Greek Islands as well as a lot of the Turkey mainland along the way.

We arrived at the port of Kepez which is just outside of he town of Cannakkle.  This is the launching point for pretty much all visitors to the Gallipoli Peninsula.  It is a university town, and home to approximate 500k people.  We have 2 days to explore this area including a tour of the Gallipoli Battlefield.
To get to the peninsula we had to board a bus, which would take us to a ferry, which would transport the bus over to the peninsula and then onto one of 8 different staggered locations at which there would be a historian to provide a talk about the events of that particular point of interest.
Our bus took us to The Nek as our first stop.  It was incredible to see the harsh yet beautiful landscape the diggers were directed to attack.  It was also amazing to see what appeared to be trenches from 1915.  There are some reconstructed trenches around, but these appear to be real as they are half way down the side of he hill.
We moved onto Chunuk Bair where Kath and Leanne’s Great Uncle Basil, a Kiwi, fought in the August Offensive.  Unfortunately he was killed here and is buried with 1000’s of other Kiwi’s, Turks, Pomme’s and Aussies only a couple of metres underneath where we stood.  

The NZ government with the cooperation of the Turkish Govt, recently erected a memorial here due to the major losses suffered by the NZ forces.  On this memorial we locate Basil Dawson and placed some poppies and also a print out with a picture of Basil.  It was quite moving.

This was one of the locations where reconstructed trenches were all over the place.  We wandered around, again amazed and stunned at how difficult a time the allies would have had trying to storm this location.

We had some lunch and made use of the facilities and then moved onto Anzac Cove and North Beach which was were the majority of our forces landed on the 25th of April, 1915.  Again, this was a peaceful and stunning location, however the remnants of the war are still present.  There are a number of large concrete bunkers used by the Turks to defend their land, scattered along the beach, slowing disappearing into the sand.

We stopped at Beach Cemetary on the way where John Simpson Kirkpatcrick is buried. People will know the story of how he rescued many injured soldiers by taking them to the beach on the back of a donkey that was originally used for hauling supplies.  Apparently the diggers were taking bets on how long he would survive. In the end it was about 3 weeks into the offensive, and he wasn’t shot, but killed by a nearby blast.

The Turks wouldn’t shoot at him as he posed no threat. This was the same for the many soldiers who went into shock when their mates were killed beside them. They wandered the battlefield and were called ‘walking ghosts’ by the soldiers.  They weren’t shot at, and Simpson would collect them, tie them to the donkey with rope and lead them to the hospital facilities. War is ugly.

We jumped a bus up to North Beach, where the new Anzac Day facilities are being prepared.  From there you could look up and see the Nek and the Sphinx and other land marks that form the battlefield, not that there are any fields here, it’s all steep slopes.
We decided to walk from here along the beach, back to Anzac Cove.  All along the beach you couldn’t help but think how many blokes died right there nearly 100 years ago. We half expected to spot bullet shells in amongst the rocks and coral and in fact earlier in the day some kids found 5 bullets fully in tact with 3 linked together as they would have been in the machine gun magazine. One of the historians took possession of them to have them disarmed and passed onto the museum.
We spent some time at Anzac Cove and them hopped back on the bus.  It was getting later in the day however we headed off the Lone Pine, which was the last stop we would make it to.  The cruise company allocated all passengers an Adopt-a-Digger and all are buried at Lone Pine. We located our diggers and placed a poppy at the head stone.  The poppies were provided by an army of volunteers who, over the past 5 years and every day on the cruise thus far have knitted 1000’s of them.  What an amazing effort.

It was getting close to the last bus time, which was supposed to be at 5pm so we waited by the side of the road. No bus. We knew that someone would have to be by to pick up the historian so we were pretty safe.

Along came a little van for the historian, but no be enough to pick up all the people that were waiting.  The guy driving this van seemed to be a boss type character so he was on the phone immediately to call for more buses. We waited a little while the all of a sudden 2 empty buses came along and picked us up.

Lucky as we weren’t the only people still waiting for a bus, and after the end of our loop the bus was almost full.  We arrived back at the port and the bus drove onto the ferry which took us back to Cannakkle and back to the ship.  A big day but quite an amazing one.

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