Seven months ago, Duffster & I were in Turkey. And one day we joined a tour of the Gallipoli peninsula. I would strongly recommend any Kiwi or Aussie in the country to make the trip too.
We all grow up with ANZAC day, going to dawn services, learning about WW1 and the trials our countrymen faced in that foreign land. Some of the coursework that I remember most strongly from high school were my English classes on WW1 poetry and the play Chunuk Bair.
But there’s nothing like sitting on a boat in the wind & waves of the Aegean, zipping into ANZAC cove yourself. Standing on that soil, the craggy cliffs looming above you. Standing in the trenches and looking mere meters across the road to where the enemy trenches once were. Realising viscerally how many cemeteries there are in this one small area. Touching your fingertips to Lt Colonel Malone’s name.
It was very moving and I was so glad we went.
And I hadn’t thought about Gallipoli being such a monument to the Turks as well. Of course it is, but I suppose it has always framed to me from the ANZAC point of view. But there are many Turk cemeteries and memorials and Turkish visitors on the peninsula too.
And to finish, the lovely & sad poem Last Post from Carol Ann Duffy. Written to honour the passing of the last WWI veterans in the UK:
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If poetry could tell it backwards, true, begin
that moment shrapnel scythed you to the stinking mud …
but you get up, amazed, watch bled bad blood
run upwards from the slime into its wounds;
see lines and lines of British boys rewind
back to their trenches, kiss the photographs from home -
mothers, sweethearts, sisters, younger brothers
not entering the story now
to die and die and die.
Dulce – No – Decorum – No – Pro patria mori.
You walk away.
You walk away; drop your gun (fixed bayonet)
like all your mates do too -
Harry, Tommy, Wilfred, Edward, Bert -
and light a cigarette.
There’s coffee in the square,
warm French bread
and all those thousands dead
are shaking dried mud from their hair
and queuing up for home. Freshly alive,
a lad plays Tipperary to the crowd, released
from History; the glistening, healthy horses fit for heroes, kings.
You lean against a wall,
your several million lives still possible
and crammed with love, work, children, talent, English beer, good food.
You see the poet tuck away his pocket-book and smile.
If poetry could truly tell it backwards,
then it would.