Sombre occasion … Australians and New Zealanders attend the Anzac Day dawn service at Anzac Cove in Gallipoli. Picture: Ella Pellegrini Source: News Corp Australia
A SMALLER-than-expected crowd at Gallipoli for the Anzac Day dawn service has been reminded that reverential silence on the often eerily quiet Turkish peninsula is a tribute to the diggers who died in 1915.
Just 4400 mostly Australian and New Zealand pilgrims turned out this year ahead of the 2015 centenary commemorations which will see 10,500 people crammed on to North Beach.
Veterans’ Affairs Minister Michael Ronaldson said the soldiers who mistakenly landed at Anzac Cove 99 years ago were, by their own admission, ordinary men.
“They did not seek glory, nor did they want their actions to be glorified – for it was they who quickly came to know the true horror of war,” the minister said as the sun rose over the Gallipoli cliffs.
Sacrifice remembered …. Senator Michael Ronaldson addressing the crowd at the Anzac Day dawn service at Anzac Cove in Gallipoli. Picture: Ella Pellegrini Source: Supplied
“That these ordinary men, however, did extraordinary things is beyond doubt.” Senator Ronaldson said the Anzacs left a vanquished fighting force but “were victorious in helping forge the identity of our two new nations”.
“As the dawn of this new day breaks over the peninsula our tribute to the spirit of Anzac is a reverential silence,” he said. Some 8700 Australians died during the eight-month campaign alongside 2700 New Zealanders.
It’s estimated up to 87,000 Turks lost their lives.
The modern Turkish nation, too, was built partly on the back of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s success as a commander at Gallipoli. He went on to become the republic’s first president in 1923.
Paying their respects … Australians Erinn Cooper, 22, and Laetitia Merlehan, 23, from the Gold Coast attend the Anzac Day dawn service at Anzac Cove in Gallipoli. Picture: Ella Pellegrini Source: News Corp Australia
Young Australian Erinn Cooper camped out overnight to attend the dawn service.
The 22-year-old comes from a military family – her father did tours of duty in East Timor and Iraq while her grandfather fought in World War II.
Ms Cooper, from the Gold Coast, told AAP she was representing them both at Gallipoli.
“It’s really mind-blowing to be here,” she said.
“Anzac Day is our biggest day of the year. It’s a really big thing in our family,” Ms Cooper considered applying for the centenary in 2015 but decided the ballot was too risky.
“Coming this year was something we could actually make happen.”
Pilgrims … Australians at the Anzac Day dawn service at Anzac Cove in Gallipoli. Picture: Ella Pellegrini Source: Supplied
Organisers saw this year’s service as a dress rehearsal for 2015.
But while the crowd will be much bigger next year, it will also be more manageable.
Authorities know exactly who’s coming because the event is ticketed.
Further, the pilgrims will be older on average because 1600 passes were set aside for direct descendants and veterans.
In 2015, only 25 per cent of visitors will be under 35, whereas usually 60 per cent are in that age group.
Australian authorities think it’s likely Prince Charles will attend the centenary service in Gallipoli although his spokeswoman has told AAP it is “too early to say”.
Prince William this week revealed he was looking forward to “taking part in next year’s Gallipoli centenary” along with wife Kate and brother Prince Harry.
That led to speculation they’d be at North Beach but a palace spokesman has clarified they could attend any number of Anzac ceremonies anywhere in the world.
Pre dawn … Australians and New Zealanders sleep ahead of the Anzac Day dawn service at Anzac Cove in Gallipoli. Picture: Ella Pellegrini Source: News Corp Australia
The Chief of the Defence Force, General David Hurley, joined thousands of Australians who made the pilgrimage to Turkey.
General Hurley recited the Ode of Remembrance on behalf of all Australians during this morning’s Dawn Service at Anzac Cove.
“It was a rare privilege to read the Ode at a time when so many Australians are rediscovering the significance of the Gallipoli landing in our nation’s history,” General Hurley said.
“I have a great a sense of reverence for the fallen who fought in the Gallipoli campaign.”
General Hurley will also deliver an address during the service at Lone Pine later this afternoon.
“As a former Commander of 1st Brigade myself, I feel a deep affinity with Colonel Nevill Smyth, VC and his men who led the first assault on the trenches at Lone Pine,” General Hurley said.
“On the eve of the Anzac Centenary, it is important to honour the original Anzacs’ sacrifice and to remember all Australian servicemen and women who have fallen over the past 100 years.”
Military presence … Officers stand at attention at the Anzac Day dawn service at Anzac Cove in Gallipoli. Picture: Ella Pellegrini Source: Supplied
Approximately 3,200 Australian Defence Force personnel who are currently deployed on operations at home and abroad will also commemorate Anzac Day.
“Our serving personnel are the custodians of the Anzac spirit. They carry the spirit and continue to uphold the values of courage, mateship, endurance and sacrifice.”
Earlier this week, General Hurley presented a scale model of the Royal Australian Navy’s AE2 submarine to the Naval Museum at Besiktas.
When the AE2 attempted to enter the Sea of Marmara on 25 April 1915, the minefields protecting the narrow strait along the Dardanelles had already claimed three Allied battleships and two submarines.
“The AE2 crew was captured and the boat scuttled, but the story of how we discovered the wreck more than 80 years after World War I speaks to the friendship Australia has now forged with the people of Turkey,” General Hurley said.
This year for the first time, Aussies travelling to Gallipoli for Anzac Day have been able to take shelter on the foreshore of Anzac Cove like their forefathers 99 years before.
In previous years, the busloads of Australian and New Zealand visitors that arrive on the peninsula for Anzac Day services have been forced to sit for hours in the belting sun ahead of being allowed into the site.
ROYAL OCCASION: Prince William and Kate make surprise appearance at Anzac Day Dawn Service in Canberra
But in a trial for the 100-year commemorations next year, Turkish and Australian authorities allowed 1500 visitors to prop at a staging post along a tree-fringed beach section before their final hike or shuttle bus move to the base of the cliffs for the Dawn Service.
Taking it easy … For the first time since Anzac celebrations started in Gallipoli a staging post with big red cushions on the beach has been organised for the backpackers in Mimoza junction in the Gallipoli peninsula. Pic: Ella Pellegrini Source: Supplied
Ironically, it was a little further along the same strip of foreshore that 99 years ago Diggers propped for a rest before launching further doomed assaults on the Turks.
“It’s absolutely awesome,” tour company Top Deck’s Shae Harrington from Adelaide said yesterday as her 431 pilgrims rested or played impromptu games of footy in the area.
“In the past we have sat in the sun from 3pm and we tell everyone to bring water, sunscreen etc but this is great and everyone is really happy.”
Phillip van Bentum from tour operator Fanatics also said it was a very welcome change.
“It really takes the edge off to be able to sit here and relax for the night ahead rather than being sat in the sun to wait,” he said.
One issue that did arise was a critical lack of toilets with long queues forming for the few port-a-loos that had been erected.
“We have had that feedback and that will change for next year,” a Department of Veterans Affairs official said.