I have grown up with the legend of my Grandfather and his involvement in the First World War – a loving hero, my hero.
I was the apple of his eye and he was my Grandad, my mate (and my only living Grandparent), I’d roller skate to his place past the playing fields and Inglewood Pool to visit him at the RSL homes – I remember hedges of rosemary. He’d sing ‘I like bananas because they have no bones’ and we’d just hang out. I grew up thinking that all old men bandages their legs – to realise later that these were the results of a war some 60 years past where standing in trenches in both Gallipoli and the Western Front caused ulcers on his legs that never healed. I don’t recall him ever speaking to me about the war – but I was young – he became increasingly senile and died when I was 16 and he was 91.
I had heard the stories from Mum many times, that he was in the second wave at Gallipoli and had been one the last boats to leave setting booby traps on the beach. He talked about swapping cigarettes and mementos with the Turks during cease fires (aka – removing dead bodies from the front lines).
I am a history teacher – I have taught Gallipoli in schools to teenagers – how we went to the wrong beach – how it unified us as a nation – the myths of mate-ship and the diggers and the ANZAC spirit.
All this is with me as I leave Istanbul – reading the last chapters of Gallipoli by Alan Moorehead. It has only been since reading this account that I fully understood why we were there – a small peninsula in a foreign land – far away from the main fighting in France – finally understanding the geography and logistics – if you can force the Dardanelles at the Narrows – get to the Sea of Marmara, capture Constantinople – take the Bosphorous and allow the Russian allies to utilise their ports in the Black Sea (Battleship Potekim makes sense too – the Odessa steps sequence sparks in my mind).
As I drive towards ANZAC Cove we come to the Dardanelles and I am moved by this stretch of water and it’s significance on my own history and sense of self – armed with a sense of history and a set of photos I come as a pilgrim.
From Stanley, Tasmania, to this – I ponder the futility of it all. Birth of a nation stuff and half a million men dead; all for this narrow stretch of water – azure blue and calm. I am also moved by how much like home it looks (especially after four years of living in London), blue skies, sparkling sea, arid landscape – I could be in Northern NSW – I want to swim and be outside – it feels very native to me here.
So here are my pictures inter cut with some that Grandad took in 1915 on his small box camera.