2018 Gallipoli Tour Report

BATTLEFIELD TOUR REPORT – May 2018

Stephen Chambers – Battlefield Guide and Author of:

‘Anzac: The Landing’, ‘Suvla: The August Offensive’, ‘Gully Ravine Gallipoli’

Our Gallipoli Association 2018 spring tour comprised a group of 22. As always, there was a good mix of members and non-members from all over the UK, Australia and New Zealand, and with Battle Honours Ltd fielding two local Turkish guides ND Bttlefield guide Lt Col Peter Sweeney RFD (Ret'd) joining us from Battle Honours Australia, our multinational team was complete.
With four full days on the battlefield we believe this remains one of the most comprehensive tours of Gallipoli, and although we do visit many places, it is done at a relaxed pace so no one feels rushed. There is scope to visit spots not offered on other tour itineraries and as part of a like-minded intimate group we often reach these locations via adventurous old mule tracks, dried up gullies and now tranquil beaches. The distances are not excessive, about six - seven miles a day, some of which is over undulating ground but at a pace to suit the needs of the group. This year our oldest visitor was a 92-year old Arnhem veteran, from the Isle of Man, who upheld all the traditions of the Parachute Regiment by completing every walk. A coach was always close-by which we use for anyone preferring to have a rest from a walk or to facilitate a special visit to a site or cemetery. The advantage of having more than one guide enables us to offer this high level of flexibility.
 
Day 1 – After the scheduled flights into Istanbul and the 5-hour transfer airport transfer, we formally welcomed the group at Hotel Grand Anzac in Canakkale. As usual they made us feel very welcome, and after distributing the tour packs for the week, and a quick beer, we turned in for the night.
 
Day 2 – After setting the scene with talks on the campaigns political background and strategic aim, we focused on the personal experiences of those who had served at Gallipoli. We explained the naval assaults on the Narrows; there is no better place to talk ‘ships versus forts’ than the old Ottoman batteries that still line the Dardanelles today. Gallipoli is rich with personal stories with some well-known characters such as Sir Roger Keyes and those of the land campaign that formed the basis of our first ‘battlefield’ day at Anzac; Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick, better known as the ‘Man with his Donkey’ and Australian legend Lance-Corporal Albert Jacka who was decorated with the VC for his action at Courtney’s Post. But also, the less well-known such as Captain Bob Bage, Commander Cater, and Private Jim Martin. The visit to Anzac included insights into these men as well as an in-depth look at the landing. As there is no better way to study it than from the sea, we spent the morning on board a boat charting the Aegean coast around Gaba Tepe. From the landings to the eventual evacuation, the boat provided a perfect stage. This was also a perfect opportunity for a swim off North Beach where some snorkelled over the wreck of the Milo. During the afternoon, back on dry land, we walked the gullies and ridges from North Beach and the Anzac Commemorative Site, to Anzac Cove. We spent time waking through the beautifully maintained CWGC cemeteries along the shoreline whilst the most adventurous trekked up onto Plugges Plateau for its breath-taking views. After a super lunch at a traditional Turkish Gozleme restaurant, where we sampled the local cuisine, we ascended onto the higher Anzac ridges to visit Lone Pine and Shell Green, the preserved trenches at Johnston’s Jolly and Quinn’s Post. Clinging to the cliffs above the beaches, we walked the frontline held by the Anzac’s and visited several intimate spots such as 4th Battalion Parade Ground, Wire Gully and Monash Gully before ending the day at The Nek, site of the tragic Australian Light Horse attack.
 
Day 3 – After a full day studying the Anzac landing and subsequent battles we headed south to Cape Helles. The morning started with an incredible panoramic view from the top of Achi Baba, 29th Division’s objective for 25th April 1915. From the heights, we drove down to W Beach, to study the exploits of the Lancashire Fusiliers, spending time exploring the old piers, dugouts and camp remains that are still evident a hundred years later. Leaving the famous ‘6 VCs Before Breakfast’ location we crossed the fields in the footsteps of the 4th Worcestershire Regiment’s bayonet charge on Hill 138, ending up on the recently scrub cleared Hunter-Weston Hill. With the old trenches now exposed once more we could examine the original Ottoman defensive line of this redoubt that fell to the Worcesters late on the first day of the landing. Hunter-Weston Hill’s elevation allows a fantastic view of the surrounding battlefield and gave us an opportunity to give a short talk on the air war at Gallipoli. After visiting the adjacent Helles Memorial, where the group laid a wreath, we visited Ertu─črul Fort, the old Castle and the village of Sedd-el-Bahr. Here we recounted the stories of the River Clyde, the Dublin and Munster Fusiliers struggle to advance from their pinned-down positions on V Beach and exploits of men from the Royal Naval Armoured Car Division. Whilst on the beach we listened to Susan Burnett, grand-daughter of Norman Woodcock, who read his eye-witness account of the landing from his diary, now published as ‘On That Day I Left My Boyhood Behind’. The Turkish defences are still evident and it is still miraculous to believe that a landing here could have been successful. Nine VCs were won in this action, six of them Naval. Lunching by the beach at the Mocamp Café, we headed off in the afternoon to visit the isolated grave of Lieutenant Colonel Doughty-Wylie VC where we recounted the story of the only woman to step foot on Gallipoli during the campaign: Who was she? Lillian Doughty-Wylie or Gertrude Bell? Our walk then went ‘up the line’ along the weather-beaten Gully Ravine that allowed us to visit the spots that once housed over-burdened Field Ambulances, countless billets in its shelter and wells sunk by the Engineers to quench the parched thirst of the troops. This year the winter rains had collapsed parts of the Gully near Geoghegan’s Bluff so whilst one party exited at Pink Farm, the remainder climbed up onto Gully Spur to finish the walk at Gurkha Bluff and Y Beach.
 
Day 4 - A beautiful walk in the morning took us to the remote area of North Anzac. Leaving Embarkation Cemetery, we followed the path of Cox’s Indian and Monash’s Australian brigades through the notorious Taylor’s Gap and into Agyhl Dere. Colonel Peter Sweeney (Retd) spoke to us on General Monash and how from his learning ground at Gallipoli he became one of Australia’s greatest commanders by 1918. From there we ascended onto Damakjelik Spur, passing Australia Valley, before ending the day studying the actions of Hill 60, known to the Ottomans as Bomba Tepe due to the heavy use of grenades used in this location. Stories of the Connaught Rangers, South Wales Borderers, New Zealand Mounted Rifles and Australian Light Horse were told; the bravery of men like Lieutenant Hugo Throssell brought a tear or two as the horror of these late August battles were recounted. After lunch at a local café, we spent the afternoon on one of the most spectacular of any battlefield walks from the heights of Chunuk Bair and Hill Q to the beaches below. Focusing on Ottoman, Indian, New Zealand and British New Army troops, we followed their battle along the Rhododendron Ridge. One special stop was to commemorate two Westbury men; Sergeant Stuart Pearce and Private Joseph Dew, 5th Wiltshire Regiment, who were killed in the Ottoman counter attack on 10 August on these slopes. Nigel Readman placed a cross in memory of them both; Stuart was his maternal great grandfather. This walk is on steep, mountainous terrain along a winding trail and whilst it is not for the faint hearted, it was enormously rewarding. We ended the day with a dip in the Aegean Sea, a welcome opportunity to cool off from the hot spring sunshine.
 
Day 5 – Our Suvla day started at Nibrunesi Point where we followed the initial landings of Kitchener’s Army and
their assault on Lala Baba and Hill 10. We studied the failure of ‘command and control’ at Suvla, looking at the characteristics of the commanders in charge of both sides, and how actions of individuals influence outcome. We then explored Scimitar Hill and Green Hill as we look at the last great attack of the Gallipoli Campaign and individuals like Lord Longford, Lieutenant Nowell Oxland and Trooper Fred Potts VC. After a packed lunch in the shade of the trees at Green Hill Cemetery, we explored Chocolate Hill, before spending the afternoon looking at the ill-fated Suvla attacks later in August 1915. Our walk began on the beach before we passed Hill 10 and followed in the footsteps of the 1/5th Norfolk Regiment to uncover the true story behind the ‘vanishing battalion’. One of our guides, Clive Harris, has a family connection to this battalion and battle, his great uncle Private George Miller being one of the ‘missing’. It was wonderful to hear this popular story told in such a personal and heart rendering way.
 
Day 6 – Our last day at Gallipoli which signalled our return journey to the airport. On the coach some continued to debate this campaign of ‘what if’s’ whilst others took the opportunity to snooze. The key focus of these tours is to encourage and facilitate study, remembrance and reconciliation, so by keeping the memory of the campaign alive, we ensure that all who served in it, and those who gave their lives, are not forgotten.