This was something I always wanted to do …and now have. Firstly I must warn everyone that this is not an easy thing to do. We were there to pay our respects, and in a way this is the Australian and New Zealand version of a pilgrimage. Something all Aussies and Kiwi’s must do at least once in their lives.
We set out from Istanbul (one of my favourite cities on the planet with its alfresco dining, great seafood and Europe-meets-Middle-East feel about it) early in the morning on the 24th of April. It takes about 4.5 hours to get to the Cove so it is wise to set out early. After arriving and having to deal with security, who seemed mostly confused by the whole affair, we made it down to The Cove.
Because we arrived so early we managed to get the best position possible, front and centre. It was several hours before any others were allowed in, giving us a great opportunity to explore the area. It was also a beautiful day, so those that didn’t want to explore were able to lie on the grass, read their books and lap up the sunshine. Eventually others were let through and we all settled in for the long, cold night ahead of us.
The Dawn Service was a deeply moving experience. Many people were cold, miserable and hadn’t slept, but at least we didn’t have bullets and artillery coming in all around us. After surveying the hill the Diggers were eventually able to ascend and capture, I came away with a real appreciation of how hard it must have been. I found myself picturing Turkish machine gunners and riflemen all over the place picking off Aussies and Kiwis like fish in a barrel and began to truly understand what a nightmare of a place this peaceful beach must have been. They really did build them tough back then. The whole experience was incredible and I recommend it to anyone who hasn’t been and think they understand what it’s all about. They don’t.
By Andy Henderson