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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Anzac Day 2013

Every Anzac Day, young Australian and New Zealand youth feel compelled to go to Turkey to attend the dawn services at Gallipoli.  It's hard to explain to someone from another country just why we revere the slaughter at Gallipoli 98 years ago, we were the invaders who lost the battle, yet we come back here every year to remember.  It's rather bizarre.

It's very cold in April and there are no facilities - no electricity, no toilets, no fresh water and no medical services.  Everything is brought in and taken away after the event.  It's a bit like organizing a rock concert in the middle of nowhere.  Food and refreshments are available from Turkish food sellers and no alcohol is allowed.

We should remember that the event only takes place because the Turkish government allows it and we hope their co-operation continues in the lead up to the centenary in 2015.  The Turks are incredibly supportive and provide tight security to protect the descendants of their invaders.  Everyone gets a wrist band on entry and pass through an airport style security screen.  There is also CCTV, Turkish military hiding in the scrub and helicopters hover overhead.

But don't think of going unless you are reasonably fit.  You can expect to walk up to 8 kms on rough ground. The walk from the dawn service to Lone Pine, where the Australian service is held, is 3 kms and includes a section of 1.5 kms of uneven dirt with a steep incline.  The walk from Lone Pine to Chunuk Bair, where the New Zealand service is held, is 3.2 kms up a steep road.

But that won't put people off, there are so many people wanting to attend the dawn service for the centenary in 2015, organizers had to resort to a lottery, to keep numbers down.  Cruise ships are being encouraged to dock in waters nearby so many more Aussies get to share the experience.

Alec Campbell, aged 16, was the last Anzac

Anzac Day crowds at dawn services around the country this morning were the biggest ever so it's clear that Anzac Day isn't just another public holiday, it's an important part of who we are.