Anzac journey wondrous
Local lass Kimberley Ertel embarked on a trip of a lifetime to Gallipoli, Turkey this year. Here is her firstperson account of the moving Anzac Day service.
Never before have I been so proud to be a New Zealander than on April 25, 2013 standing among my fellow Anzacs at the dawn ceremony in Gallipoli, Turkey.
Myself, Rachel Wyllie and fellow Matamata girl Sarah Exton embarked upon a lifechanging journey as we retraced the footsteps of our Anzac soldiers who fought bravely at Gallipoli in 1915.
We arrived on the Gallipoli peninsula mid- afternoon, patient and excited, ready to make our Anzac pilgrimage.
The gates to the Anzac memorial site were opened a few hours later and we all squished in and found our place on the grass for our night under the stars.
Throughout the night, New Zealand and Australian military bands entertained the crowds, keeping spirits high and thoughts away from the chilly evening temperatures.
Many documentaries, interviews and photos of the memorial sites scattered over the peninsula were also shown on the big screen, allowing us the opportunity to grasp the reality of what our soldiers went through and achieved during the Gallipoli campaign.
I remember our Turkish tour guide explaining in broken English before we arrived in Gallipoli how ‘‘ you just don’t get it, until you are there in person’’, how ‘‘Gallipoli will change you’’.
She could more right.
As the sun slowly rose over Anzac Cove, the absolute calm and stillness was breathtaking.
The reality of our forefathers’ courage, sacrifice and compassion was staring us in the face. The moving speech from the Turkish representa-
not have been tives highlighted the friendly acceptance of Anzacs in Turkey.
Although our soldiers may have fallen on foreign soil, they are still very much respected and highly regarded. The 6km trek to Chunuk Bair following the service was again a sobering moment. As we passed the trenches and cemeteries to the top of the Gallipoli peninsula where the NZ soldiers gained the most territory, the reality of what the New Zealand Defence Force actually do for us Kiwis certainly hit home.
Although I cannot comprehend what it must be like to have a loved one fighting in a war overseas, after my experience at Gallipoli I most definitely have newfound admir- ation and gratitude for what our brave men and women do.
Gallipoli not only helped us acknowledge and celebrate the lives of those who had fallen but also gave us a new understanding and appreciation for our defence force as they sacrifice their personal freedom so we can maintain ours. Engraved forever at Anzac Cove are the following tender words from Gallipoli Turkish Commander Ataturk who later became the first president of the Turkish Republic.
‘‘ Those heroes who 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 here in this country of ours. You, the mothers who send 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.’’ - Ataturk, 1934.
Lest we forget.
Pilgrimage: Matamata’s Kimberley Ertel with friends Rachel Wyllie and Sarah Exton at the Anzac memorial site in Gallipoli.