We had a choice of doing a day trip to Gallipoli from Canakkale that returned later in the afternoon or for a bit extra, we could travel to Istanbul after the tour that would arrive late at night. We had to book in advance and to save costs (and our rear ends from 35 hours worth of straight bus time, we opted to stay in Canakkale. Ain’t hindsight a B*#tch! We stayed at Anzac Youth Hostel. As we walked up to our room, a smell grew stronger. We were shown the showers where the smell was the strongest before the door to our room was opened, revealing the most uninspiring boudoir know to man. The stains on the wall matched the stains on the sheets that seemed even cleaner than the pair of slippers they expected us to wear. Luckily, we were right next to the showers, so after deciding that today would be a Wash-Free-Day, I ran across the road to grab breakfast, our first McDonald’s of the trip. McDonalds was a choice for two reasons. Locality for one, and the other, more importantly, was to strategically avoid eating all the food and leave it sweating in the room for 9 hours as type of air freshener.
We thankfully had to leave straight away to get on our tour with Hassle Free Tours (Highly Recommended). We crossed the Dardanelles on a ferry to meet the rest of the group for some lunch before the tour started.
Gallipoli has been on our list for some time and every year we would say to ourselves that we would head there for Anzac Day but, for different reasons, it never materialised. So this was a must do on our year of adventure. You don’t have to visit here on Anzac Day to feel the emotion of the place, and being slightly off-season meant we mainly had the places to ourselves. We sat in the shade of Brighton Beach, the intended landing side of the Anzacs, where our guide explained the peninsular and some important facts of why there was even a battle here in the first place and what went wrong over the months that followed the dawn landing.
We visited ANZAC Cove (smaller than you think). We saw the terrain that faced the Anzacs. The poor lads. We heard how the 57th Infantry Regiment of the Turkish Army was reduced considerably in the previous Ottoman Wars and when the few men that remained watched as thousands of Anzacs landed they retreated. They were confronted by the Lieutenant-Colonel Mustafa Kernal (Ataturk) who then famously said:
“I am not ordering you to attack. I am ordering you to die. During the time before we die other forces and commanders will take our place.”
And they did. They were completely wiped out. To this day there is no 57th Regiment in the Turkish Army as a sign of respect.
We visited the North Beach, Shrapnel Valley as well as the Beach and Ari Burnu Cemetery’s. The beach cemetery to the South of Anzac Cove is the resting spot of the legend that is John Simpson. Before we arrived Sarah asked who Simpson and his donkey was. As we sat in the shade of a tree looking out to the ocean, the guide handed over a page to one of the guys in the group to tell the story. Hassle Free Tours have kindly sent us this story:
John Simpson Kirkpatrick, affectionately known as “the man and his donkey”, was born on the 6th of July 1892 in South Shields, England. As a boy, John worked at Murphy’s Fair, providing donkey rides for the children for a penny a ride. The animals responded well to his gentle, kind manner, he seemed to have an instinctive attachment with them.
At age 17 he joined the the merchant navy and in 1910, arrived in Newcastle, Australia. For the next few years Jack worked a series of jobs, cane cutting, cattle droving, coal mining, “humping the bluey” (better know nowadays as back-packing).
At the age of 22, Simpson enlisted in Perth just 3 weeks after the outbreak of World War 1. Eight months after enlisting Simpson landed at ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli, as a stretcher bearer, with “C” section, 3rd Field Ambulance, 1st Australian Division, Australian Imperial Force.
Just before dawn, on Sunday April the 25th 1915, he waded ashore. There was a shortage of stretchers, medical equipment and supplies. Stretcher parties were reduced from 6 men to 2.
Several donkeys were landed and some had been abandoned and were grazing in the wild overgrown gullies. Simpson saw a donkey grazing nearby and decided to use the donkey to help carry wounded men to the field hospital.
Simpson would start his day as early as 6.30 a.m. and often continue until as late as 3.00 a.m. He made the one and a half mile trip, through sniper fire and shrapnel, 12-15 times a day. He never hesitated or stopped, even under the most furious shrapnel fire and was frequently warned of the dangers ahead but invariably replied “my troubles”.
The need for fodder led him to the 21st Kohat Indian Mountain Artillery Battery. The Indians had brought mules to haul their artillery and had brought plenty of fodder. Simpson set up camp with them, slept and ate with them and was idolised by them. The Indians called him “Bahadur” which means “the bravest of the brave”. To the other troops he was known as “Scotty”, “Murphy”, “Simmie”, and generally “the man with the donkey”.
The question was often asked : “Has the bloke with the donkey stopped one yet ?” It seemed incredible that anyone could make that trip up and down Monash Valley without being hit.
F. W. Dyke, a Gallipoli original, recalled a rare occasion when his donkey was being obstinate. Padre was standing waiting to accompany Simpson, but with all his coaxing the donkey wouldn’t move. At last Simpson turned to the Padre and said, “Padre, this old donkey has been tied up with some mules and has acquired some of their bad habits. Would you move along the beach a little way, as I’ll have to speak to him in Hindustani, and, Padre, I wouldn’t like you to think I was swearing at him.”
On May 19th 1915, at 3.00 a.m.,the Turks mounted a major counter-offensive. Simpson made his way up the gully towards Courtney’s Post where the fighting had been most furious. He picked up a wounded man and made his way towards the beach. Moments later the Turkish machine gun opened fire. Simpson was hit in the back killing him instantly. The donkey, still with the wounded man on his back ran down to his usual destination.
Simpson was buried at Hell Spit number 5 on the same evening.
During the 24 days he had carried over 300 wounded comrades to safety.
One of the 1st Battalion missed him from the gully that day and asked “Where’s Murphy?” The Sergeant replied “Murphy’s at Heaven’s Gate, helping the soldiers through.”
From here we climbed to some of the high points that were strongly fought over during the war. Here, at Johnstones Jolly, were the remains of the Anzac Trenches on the left of the road, and on the right, the trenches of the Turkish Soldiers just five metres away. Originally three metres deep, they are now filled in to roughly a metre deep but still easy to make out the hard work that the Turkish Soldiers and our Diggers had to endure. We were told of the respect each of the sides had for one another and how once towards the end of a large battle, a British soldier lay injured between the bunkers crying for help. No one was able to go and help as if they stood, they would be easily shot. Eventually a white flag was raised from the Turkish trench and soldier climbed out of his trench, picked up the injured soldier and carried him to the Anzac’s trench and laid him down so he could be helped. As the guide said, it was the last Gentlemens war.
We visited Lone Pine on top of the hill were more memorials lay amongst the shade of the giant pine tree. The Pine Tree has it’s own story. Two brothers in the Anzacs were fighting together when one brother was killed. When his brother found him, lying on his chest was a pinecone. The brother then sent this pinecone back to there mother who planted it in her garden in memory. When the memorial was established, the mother gave a pinecone from the tree that was then planted on the hill and is what is standing there today.
We visited the The Nek that had amazing views of the coastline and where we heard even more stories of how these men lost their lives for no reason. On this spot, the Australian 3rd Light Horse Brigade were ordered to charge the Turkish soldiers who were completely prepared with heavy artillery. The first charge was obliterated in seconds. Strangely, they were commanded again for a second charge that resulted in the same outcome. The Turkish soldiers started screaming Stop! Stop! Stop! Yet, two more charges were ordered. There were 372 casualties in a matter of minutes.
By the end of the day all we had learnt was the entire battle of Gallipoli was a complete waste of time and lives. The only positives that came from the entire thing were a respect for one another and appreciation of each other’s lives. The statement inscribed at Ari Burnu Cemetery from the Turkish Commander Mustafa Kemal Ataturk says it all.
“LEST WE FORGET”