On the 25th of April every year a special event takes place and that is ANZAC Day. This year though celebrations will be limited due to COVID-19. But that doesn’t mean we should forget.
What is ANZAC Day
ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and ANZAC Day is a big deal to Australians and New Zealanders. It is a very important national occasion to mark the anniversary when Australian and New Zealand armed forces arrived on their first major military campaign during World War 1. This military campaign took place at what is now known as ANZAC Cove, in Gallipoli in Turkey. It is a day when the ‘digger’ and the ANZAC spirit was born. This day occurred on the 25thApril in 1915.
Celebrating ANZAC Day during COVID-19
ANZAC Day celebrations usually begin before the sun comes up as people get up early to greet the dawn with a dawn service. This time is celebrated as this is when the Australian and New Zealand forces arrived on the shores in Turkey. There are further celebrations during the day with services and marches to cenotaphs. Then people head to the RSL’s (Returned Services League) Clubs or pubs where they play a game called 2 Up – the only day it is legal to play this game – and enjoy the company of their mates.
2 Up on ANZAC Day
2 coins on a paddle means 2 Up time
2 Up is where two coins are placed on a paddle and thrown up in the air. People bet on which way the coins will land. It is an illegal game as it is an unregulated form of gambling – except on ANZAC Day because soldiers played the game in the trenches to while away their time when not fighting.
ANZAC Day Celebrations in 2020 due to COVID-19
This year for Anzac Day due to COVID-19 it has been suggested that we all stand at our front gates at dawn for one minute of silence to pay our respects to those fallen soldiers from Gallipoli and other wars. This way we can celebrate this day together. As I live on acreage, I am not sure I will be able to see any of my neighbours! What I will be doing is remembering. Remembering the 25thApril 1990, a day that I spent at ANZAC Cove in Gallipoli, Turkey. And I will be remembering it as it is etched in my memory.
I always thought the day was special, but I didn’t know how special it was until I actually visited ANZAC Cove for myself. That was way back in 1990, the 75thanniversary of the landing, but I remember it like it was yesterday. As it was the 75thanniversary it was a big deal and the Australian and New Zealand governments organised a number of ceremonies to occur and took some of the remaining solders back to a place they probably had tried to forget.
The Road to ANZAC Cove
There was a rumour that the crowds were beginning to swell at ANZAC Cove and so we should head there early. It was the night before ANZAC Day around 6pm that we took the ferry across the Dardenelles (from Canakkale to Kilitbaher) to ensure we got a spot for the next day. It was only a short journey and as we arrived in the small port on the Gallipoli Peninsula we all laughed when we saw the ”Bob Hawke Bar” which I am sure the name of this bar has changed every time a prime minister changes (if it still exists).
The bus ride was bumpy and windy but did not take long. There were many buses and cars and people lining the road. We were advised to hop out of the bus and walk with the rest of the crowds, so we did.
I spent the night on the beach with my new-found travelling friends. It was a starry night with a large moon but it was dark, the only light was coming from the broadcast tower and it was quite cold. There was a slight breeze and gentle waves were rolling on to the pebbly shore. Peering through the darkness I pictured our boys off-shore, in 1915, drifting in their boats, waiting quietly to land. Just visible was the HMAS Tobruk which was anchored offshore and had a kangaroo shining brightly on her side. There were lights from other sea faring vessels. Even at 1.00am the atmosphere was electric as we waited in anticipation of the events to come.
ANZAC Day Dawn Service
After the Dawn Service everyone dispersed
Around 4am the 47 soldiers from the 1915 campaign began to arrive. Each of them wearing their commemorative green blazers with their medals and they were led by a soldier from today’s armed services. Some were frail and in wheelchairs, a couple carried oxygen bottles but nothing seemed like it would stop them coming to salute their fallen mates. Each digger was greeted with cheers, applause and warm wishes of “Good on ya mate” and tears from the crowd
Then the dignitaries began to arrive. The Australian Prime Minister, Bob Hawke arrived first in a blaze of lights and camera flashes. He was followed by the New Zealand Governor General, Sir Paul Reeves and the Turkish President.
The formalities of the dawn service began in darkness. There were speeches by the dignitaries and the huge crowd joined in singing the hymns and national anthems. It finished with dawn breaking to the last post and the reciting of the ‘Ode’.
“They shall not grow old…we will remember them, Lest we forget”.
As the ceremony concluded, the Sphinx that protrudes from the mountain face, which the Turks used as a lookout, glared down upon us. The terrain was now visible, the vastness of the scrub covered cliff faces – those cliff faces that were the bane of the land. Turkish soldiers, rifles in hand, were guarding these hills. This time though, they just wanted to have their photo taken with us.
The Sphinx looking over us as dawn broke
Trying to absorb everything in particular the steep terrain of the area, I could imagine Simpson walking down the hill with his donkey. Were those gunshots I could hear? Were the distant, still apparent trenches housing men eating their bully beef or lighting cigarettes — no, they were full of travelling Aussies, Kiwis, Brits and Turkish who had come to pay their respects.
Memorials to those that lost their lives
It’s surreal, the peacefulness that engulfs you now and seeing Gallipoli really makes you understand what the Diggers did for us. The best tribute of all, epitomising the feeling of the area, is that of the Turkish leader Ataturk, immortalised on a stone memorial at the north face of the cove.
“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives…
You are now lying on the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnie 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 far away 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.”
Lone Pine Cemetery
The crowds dispersed after the dawn ceremony and went to other areas of the Gallipoli National Park as there are a number of historical sites. I went to the Lone Pine Cemetery which is the furthest point the Aussies reached during the campaign. The area witnessed some of the bloodiest fighting and seven Victoria Crosses were won here. Now, the rows of white headstones are guarded by pine trees. And on the 75thanniversary there was a special memorial service which I attended. Once again, we listened to what the soldiers had done for us and remembered this special day.
Walking around Lone Pine
After the Lone Pine ceremony, I walked around the grave headstones, like many others did. It is such a peaceful place now. In the distance you could see over ANZAC Cove and other beaches like Suvla Beach – another place of significant warfare. As my day in Gallipoli came to an end our bus headed back to Kilitbaher so we could catch the ferry to Canakkale. And on to other areas in Turkey to enjoy.
Finally, if you are travelling in Europe I would highly recommend you include a visit to ANZAC Cove in your itinerary. It doesn’t have to be on the 25thof April because the area, now a national park, The Gelibolu National Park, will be open. I can tell you, for me, a visit to ANZAC Cove has been a highlight of my travels. In 2020, a trip to the end of my drive way, with my rock, will have to suffice.
Here is my 1 month European Itinerary if you are looking to make the most of your time in Europe.
Sharyn McCullum travelled to Gallipoli on a tour of Turkey with the London Walkabout Club (I don’t believe it exists now) with the major reason for travelling was to go to the 75thAnniversary of the landing of the ANZACs.
Organise your trip to ANZAC Cove and Gallipoli
I have travelled most of my life thanks to my dad who worked for an airline. I have travelled with my family, as a single person, in a couple and now with my own family. When I was single I went to the UK on a working holiday and was inspired to write ‘Live Work and Play in London and the UK‘. And I have specialised in providing working holidays, gap years and work and travel overseas information ever since. I continue to travel and currently call Melbourne home. Read more.