Only 8000 Australians and 2000 New Zealanders will be allotted to be part of this momentous national memorial gathering where it is held by historians and community commentators that Australia gained it's true 'blood' nationhood.
Blood it was! The total number of killed on all sides of the battle may never be known exactly, as the Turkish authorities didn't have the same 'war dead' philosophy as those of the British Allies. More so, the wounded and injured. Hospital ships were not inconspicuous.
Total Allied deaths were 43,000 British, 15,000 French, 8,700 Australians, 2,700 New Zealanders and 1,370 Indians. Total Turkish deaths were around 60,000. (en.wikipedia.org)
Gallipoli was a disaster for the British Allies. Poor planning, incomprehensible military decisions, lack of vital communication, killing field battle frontal attacks, officers losing the plot, enemy trenches mere metres away … and it could have been won but for ineptitude.
Our 1999 visit to Gallipoli
My wife Delma and I visited Gallipoli in February 1999. We were part of an InnerFaith Tour – instructing future tour guides – an officially approved tour guide course (which we subsequently later led). We were pretty well keyed up for Gallipoli as we'd been taught about Gallipoli since we were knee high to our parents and in school, it was a central part of our education and a day of national reflection.
As we drew closer to Gallipoli over the Dardanelles straits my thoughts went back in 1915 and the sea battle that initiated the Gallipoli campaigns that saw the British fleet withdraw having already lost a number of their battle wagons. It was all downhill from there. A land battle replaced this battle ship command that was to have sailed to Constantinople Harbour and receive the Otterman Empire's placid surrender.
The plan must have been dreamed up in London's Chequers Gentleman's Club where never a shot was heard in anger and where the swig of whiskey and the inhaling of a good cigar was the precursor to winning every imagined battle.
As the tour bus drove toward Anzac Cove, it was beginning to become obvious, even to the least well versed in military campaigning that to unload thousands upon thousands of troops on such a limiting beach was headed for disaster. What was more, they then faced mountain goat territory, immediately upward climbs, ever upwards into vertical ravines and gully's.
The mystery of it all was that the Gallipoli landings got up these monstrous barriers as far as they did, and then held on, and it was for 'dear life'.
Thousands upon thousands of letters home
It is out of this remarkable mystery encased by thousands upon thousands of letters home, a rapidly growing death toll, a wounded list that bought back astonishing stories of heroism and Padres who gave unceasingly of themselves - that Australian took Gallipoli upon itself as a blooding, as it were, of a nation amongst the nations.
The Lone Pine cemetery is like a little piece of Australia where the names so familiar to our ears are recoded on head stone after head stone after head stone after head stone.
Now there is a scientific survey team working on what actually happened and when throughout the Gallipoli campaign from the very first boat landing. (www.news.com.au)
Little wonder the 2015 memorial dawn service and Lone Pine service will be something many Australians would like to be a part, particularly those of whom loved ones either were killed in battle or the loved ones of those who took part and survived.
The suggestions were aired by the Government in a recent Sydney Morning Herald article. There is a consultation process. The sentiment was asking whether should there be places for fat-cats on a free ride in place of any of the many loved ones from the breadth of rural and regional Australia? (www.smh.com.au)
This is one occasions where the loved ones of those who gave their all might remember and weep. One of my most treasured memories was preaching at Anzac Cove and then my wife Delma and three other ladies on the tour sang, “God bless Australia'.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html