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“An Inspiring, sensational and unique trip to Canakkale”

This unforgettable trip to Canakkale, organised by the Turkish Students’ Union of UK, has been one of the few trips which can never be forgotten by me and my fellow group members who joined us. This distinguished expedition initially started in London Gatwick airport to Istanbul Ataturk airport, leading to Canakkale and finally Istanbul.A group of students along with myself from the Turkish Students’ Union of United Kingdom that had never been to such a magnificent location in Turkey set out from the United Kingdom, alongside Germany, France, and Italy, to commemorate the 100th year anniversary of the Gallipoli Campaign.

Arrival to Istanbul Ataturk airport continued with an 8 hour journey to the town of Canakkale. Canakkale is a very unique city which has witnessed two of the most incredible battles of all time; the ancient war of Troy and without a doubt the unexampled, most recent historically evidenced scene of the Gallipoli campaign. The Gallipoli Campaign, which took place in the regions of Canakkale, was one of the Allies great disasters in World War One. The allies included of the British army, French and the Anzacs (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps). It was carried out between 25th April 1915 and 9th January 1916 on the Gallipoli peninsula. The doomed campaign was thought up by Winston Churchill to end the war early by creating a new war front that the Ottomans could not cope with.We arrived in Canakkale on a late evening of the 16th March 2015. After an exhausting journey we all realised the importance of a good night’s rest. We didn’t realise that we needed this, as the next few days in Canakkale and Gallipoli was going to be nevertheless exhausting yet breathtaking; even our dreams were to consist of the scenes re-enacted and remarked in Canakkale.

The tour guide arrived early in the morning and we all set out to visit the ‘Canakkale Destani Tanitim Merkezi’ (The Battle of Gallipoli re-enacted) which is located within GallipoliNational Park. This museum re-enacts the Battle of Gallipoli with 4D videos, displays, and explanations. The interactive visual displays re-enacts the scenes of the Battle of Gallipoli, assisted by 3D glasses, gave us an extraordinary insight of the Gallipoli campaign.Our next visit was to be Anzac Koyu (Anzac Cove). Anzac Cove is perhaps the most famous spot on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Anzac Cove was only a kilometre of the frontline on the

mountainous western side of the peninsula and within easy range of Turkish artillery. By the 1st of May 1915, more than 27,000 Anzac’s (Australian and New Zealand Artillery Corps) had landed at Gallipoli and Anzac Cove became the main base for the Australian and New Zealand troops for the eight months of the Battle of Gallipoli. Anzacs expected beach and gentle slope instead of steep cliffs. When they landed here they met by a lot more Turkish soldiers and the Turks held the higher ground. Here was the most difficult and unexpected place for landing, the Turkish army did not expect a landing on Anzac Cove.Anzac Cove itself today stands as a memorial. There are a few actual graves on the shore,and a few lines of memorial stones, as well. What moved me the most was a large stone monument bearing very moving words from Ataturk, the eventual first president of the Republic of Turkey:“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives… You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmet’s to us where they lay side by side here in this country of ours… You, the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears; your sons are

now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”

This, more than anything, brought me to tears. It tied in with what our guide told us about the young men from opposing sides befriending each other in between battle — the Brits, Aussies and Turks would all play football together; trade cigarettes; share laughs. And then,when their commanders told them to, they would pick up their guns and fight! Our tour continued round the cemeteries and war memorials of the area. They showed us the landing area where the forces should have landed, the area where they actually landed and gave us a detailed historical account of the campaign.I’d like to highlight one of the more unusual stories. During a more friendly exchange Australians threw cans of bully beef (corned beef), fruit and food to the Turks as a present.The Turks gladly accepted all except the bully beef which they threw back saying: “hey did not like it and please do not send again”. Who can blame them, shows they have really good taste.With overwhelming joy our group listened to all stories, without a scratch of noise to be heard. They seemed to be living the historical moment as we visit each and every scene. Shrapnel Valley (Sarapnel Vadisi) was another remarkable scene. Shrapnel Valley was the artery of Anzac and road up to the Turkish positions. Soldiers made their way along the Shrapnel Valley and up to steep slopes. This valley became the main road for Allied troops and supplies between the Anzac front line and beach during the Gallipoli Campaign. Turks were able to regularly bombard the valley and area with heavy gunfire. This valley got its
name from the heavy shelling it was given by the Turks on 26 April 1915.Our tour in the region of Kabatepe (Gaba Tepe) consisted of a visit to the Lancashire Landing Cemetery. This area was heavily fortified and overlooked by steep cliffs. It was here that the 1st Lancashire Fusiliers fought their way ashore. The area was renamed ‘Lancashire landing’, and more than 80 Lancashire Fusiliers who died on that day were laid to rest here. It is now the final resting place of more than 1,200 Commonwealth servicemen.The first day ended with a meal at an authentic Turkish Restaurant. Every group member seemed to have a slight emotional look as well as the deep enjoyment of sharing the same scene where their ancestors had fought.Well, it seemed like nobody slept that night, everyone was up and ready before the morning bird. Our second day was to be an exhausting and exciting whole day, with prayers and emotional rep speeches; we took off to visit the resting place of the ones who had fought.The Canakkale Martyrs Memorial (Sehitler Abidesi) was our first stop, which is a war memorial commemorating the service of 253.000 Turkish soldiers who lost their lives in the Battle of Gallipoli. It is located within the Gallipoli peninsula ‘Historical National Park’ on Hisarlik Hill on Morto Bay. What a breath-taking monument, for words cannot describe the exceptional atmosphere and feelings within this location. We travelled another 15 minutes to the resting place of the 57th Infantry Regiment (57.Piyade Alay Sehitligi) the famous and most remarkable regiment of the Turks. History is written by the victors, they say, but even though the Turks won at Gallipoli, I can guarantee that most westerners don’t learn much about Turkey’s losses in this campaign. Here at this memorial, though, we did. While sipping on cool lemonade, we listened as our guide told us about the 57th Infantry Regiment — one of the regiments that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk commanded. Ataturk is famously quoted as having told this regiment: “I am not ordering
you to attack. I am ordering you to die.” And indeed they sought to death; every single one of them was either killed or wounded. Today, as a sign of respect, there is no 57th Regiment in the Turkish army.Our last stop of the day was at Chunuk Bair (Conk Bayiri), site of another main battle of the August Offensive of 1915. Here, New Zealand infantry attempted to take the hill from the Turks on August 8. Nearly every one of them died. Their bravery is remembered with a
memorial that we visited.There are so many more stories associated with Gallipoli that I could tell you. The one about a pocket watch saving Ataturk’s life in battle. Ones about the horrible trench conditions that claimed many lives on both sides. Yes, it may be true that these are not MY stories. But they are still stories that deserve to be continually shared. Ataturk the most famous Turkish General and father of modern day Turkey took a bullet to the chest which was
stopped by a pocket watch. He gave the pocket watch to a German general who replaced it with a working one. The broken one is in a museum in Berlin and the working one is in the Ataturk museum in Ankara. It is no understatement to say that without this pocket watch Turkey would have looked very different.
With a combination of joy and emotion of visiting this region of Turkey, we left Canakkale the following morning, and set off to the magnificent Istanbul. The host of three great empires, named Constantinople and today’s modern day Istanbul. The home of Hagia Sofia (Ayasofya), Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii), Dolmabahce Palace (Dolmabahce Sarayi), Maidens Tower (Kiz Kulesi), and many other grand attractions. Our last few days in Istanbul consisted of many ascinating visits to several attractions. To briefly end this descriptive article, I’d like to underline one place which draws everyone’s attention when seen, as it did with all of our group members; Hagia Sofia! A remarkable worship place that has warmly welcomed prayers of both Christians and Muslims throughout it’s time. Currently a museum, Hagia Sofia’s walls annotate figures and paintings from Christianity, alongside scriptures from the holy texts of Islam. Istanbul, a truly mystical city has been host to many civilisations since centuries, of which Byzantium and Ottoman Empires were both the most famous ones. The city today carries the characteristics of these two different cultures and surely Hagia Sophia is a perfect synthesis where one can observe both Ottoman and Byzantium effects under one great dome.

Finally, upon our departure from Turkey the group was overwhelmed by happiness resulting from the creation of distinguished stories throughout our time in Canakkale besides Istanbul. Ultimately, our trips to both these cities have unquestionably become unforgettable expeditions for each and every one of us.

With gratitude to the organisers, TUSU.

By Muhammed Ali Tunay

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