The memory and power of eight months of conflict in World War One has and will reside in the culture of Australians and New Zealanders for countless generations to come.
ANZAC Day, a time to commemorate the soldiers of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, is held on April 25 every year in Australia and New Zealand with parades, speeches and remembrance. One other spot, however, where peoples of these two countries gather, is along the shores of Gallipoli, Turkey.
Almost 100 years ago in 1915, troops were tasked with capturing the Gallipoli peninsula, a vital spot to allow the allies access to the pivotal Dardanelles waters. On paper, the plan looked to make a major difference to the war effort in a short but bold and daring move that would begin on April 25.
Unfortunately, the campaign did not go to plan, and stretched out to eight long, hard months for the soldiers. Eventually, the troops were evacuated, but only after heavy casualties on both sides.
Today, April 25 is the day we remember all those who lost their lives to war, on those barren shores of Turkey or elsewhere.
For many young travellers, a trip to Gallipoli is simply part of growing up in Australia, and ANZAC Day is a popular time of year to experience this legacy.
The only way to see the area is to book a shuttle ride to Ari Burnu – more commonly known now as ANZAC Cove – a surprisingly small stretch of otherwise unremarkable beachfront. This shoreline backs onto a slope that rises steeply away from the sea. The sharp angle of this slope served the defensive forces of Turkey well when the invaders arrived.
For several generations, this has been the coveted spot for young Australians and New Zealanders to once again stand side by side. Even in such a small, unaccommodating space, thousands of travellers claim a small area, throwing down a sleeping bag and spending the night on the chilly hillside. Some sleep, many don't, and all awake in time to watch as the sun rises on April 25. An estimated 10,000 visitors attended this sunrise and following dawn service in Gallipoli last year.
One of the most special monuments on the site doesn't come from the Australians though, nor the Kiwis. A tribute originally sent by Colonel Ataturk to an official Australian, New Zealander and British party visiting the cove from in 1934 is one of the most noble, sentimental quotes from not just Gallipoli, but the world over.
"Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives… You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side now here in this country of ours… 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."
In a few well chosen words, Ataturk graciously accepts the forces that invaded his country and assures the grieving families back home.
Next year, 2015 will mark the 100 year anniversary since the most significant April 25 in ANZAC history. With so many people wishing to attend this important milestone, the Australian and New Zealand governments created a ballot to fairly draw names of attendees. If you're fortunate enough to have had your name drawn, or are planning to attend this year or another time in the future, enjoy the trip, take your time wandering the sites and dip your toes into the icy waters to remember our ANZACs.
Do you have plans to visit Gallipoli?