Premier’s ANZAC Student Tour 2010

sstuwa-anzac-2010From April 5 to 16, 2010, 12 secondary students and 4 teachers visited historic sites of the Gallipoli campaign, including the Nek and Lone Pine, to commemorate the service of Australian veterans. They were chosen as part of 2010 Premier’s ANZAC Student Tour. 

The teachers are, coincidentally, all union members. They were: 

Rosinda Seara, Head of Department, Society & Environment, Hamilton SHS (Tour Mgr); Norman Paini, Head of Department, Society & Environment, Morley SHS, (Asst. Tour Mgr). The teacher supervisors were Alex Roseveare, Head of Department, Society & Environment, Kalamunda SHS and Christine Suckling, History Teacher and Teacher Librarian, Mindarie Senior College

The experience had an immediate and lasting impact on the tour group. For their reflections on this extraordinary place, read on!

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Rosinda and Norman talked to Western Teacher:

How did you get involved?

RS In 2007, my then principal told me to apply for the position as a teacher supervisor for the tour, as I had for years entered students. I did so, was granted an interview and won 1 of 2 places as a teacher supervisor in the 2008 tour. Based on my performance, and the knowledge of past experiences as a teacher taking students on excursions and tours within Australia and overseas, I was appointed as Deputy Tour Leader on the 2009 tour. Then, I was approached and asked if I wanted to lead the 2010 Tour. I jumped at the opportunity to visit the Gallipoli Peninsula and, thus, was the Tour Manager for the 2010 trip.

NP I was on the first tour in 2004. Originally we were to go to Gallipoli but, due to circumstances, we went to the Western Front and London. I had been a chaperone for the Simpson Prize winners in 2003 (also to Gallipoli) and I was to use my knowledge and understanding of Istanbul and the Peninsula to assist with the tour.

I was approached and asked if I would like to be the Ass’t Tour leader for the 2010 Premier’s ANZAC Tour- of course I jumped at the opportunity. I had been on a previous occasion and I would be able to assist the other chaperones and the students.

What did you hope to gain from it?

RS I just love history and I wanted to visit the place where the ANZAC legend was created. As a passionate teacher of Australian history, I have always wanted to actually walk where the ANZACS had stood. This is such an important part of our Australian history. After all, the ANZACS fought at Gallipoli, and their courage and mateship in the face of adversary stood out among men and, as such, Australia was recognised as a power-to-be by the world.

NP I hoped to share my previous experiences of Gallipoli with the others. To be able to, once again, walk on the same beaches as the original ANZACS. I also hoped to experience the cultural aspects of Turkey and to get a better understanding of the Turkish role in the campaign.

What HAVE you gained from it?

RS I have gained an actual insight into the geography of the Peninsula that no book actually describes in enough detail for us to appreciate the seriousness of the war.

I also have a deeper understanding of the Turkish perspective and that, combined with our own understanding, will make me a better communicator of this aspect of our history.

NP Much more than expected. To be able to share experiences with the students and other staff was amazing- we became our own ANZAC family .Our tour guide on the peninsula was inspirational. I have decided to attend a conference being held in Canberra at the Australian War Memorial in August: “Gallipoli – A Ridge Too Far.” Kenan (the tour guide) and other historians will be presenting papers at the conference.

What have the students gained from the tour?

RS The students gained an insight not only into the history, but to actually walk in the footsteps of some of their ancestors gave them a more in depth study in history and knowledge of the period.

NP The students have a greater understanding of Turkish culture and the involvement of the Turkish army in the campaign. They now understand why the Turks have such a high regard for Australians. To see the Gallipoli Peninsula, and the respect that the Turkish people have for all who visit the site, is amazing.

As individuals, all of the participants have gown.

What was your highlight?

RS There were so many that it is so difficult to actually pin-point any one above others. However, my first sight of Istanbul from the Bosphorus, where you can see how the city was built on seven hills, was incredible. The sheer magnificence of ANZAC Cove is difficult to forget, as is the beauty of the Judas trees at Shrapnel Valley. However, the poignancy of the wreath laying ceremony at Lone Pine, and the silent contemplation and the historical significance of this one place, was the most emotional moment for me in the Tour.

NP So many highlights!

  • Our wreath laying ceremony at the 57th Regiment Memorial;
  • Observing the students when they first saw the landing site at ANZAC Cove;
  • Our wreath laying ceremony at Lone Pine;
  • Visits to the Spice markets and the Grand Bazaar;
  • Our final meal with our tour guide and bus driver.

Will the tour help your teaching?

RS Going on the tours has increased my knowledge of the war and, as a result, I now pay much more attention to this period of history. Showing the photographs that I took, sharing my personal experience of actually visiting the places, has given me an insight into history that I am able to pass on to my students and my school, as well as to the community. I am now able to share and create a better understanding and awareness of the importance of history today.

NP Definitely! A truly balanced view of the campaign- I now have a Turkish perspective.

Rosinda’s Story:

“Every student should visit the Gallipoli peninsula at least once in their lifetime to truly appreciate the Australian involvement in WW1. We all think that we know the history behind the landing, the battles, the statistics on the deaths and wounds and the stories behind the legends. However, it is not until you stand on the beach where the ANZACs first landed 95 yrs ago that the reality of the situation hits you. Suddenly the pictures in the text books do not pay it due justice or respect.

To actually stand in daylight on a beautiful cold day at ANZAC Cove, you can’t but wonder at the courage of the first ANZACs. The beach is but a very thin strip of pebbles with sheer cliffs directly in front. How calm, how beautiful the water looks.

However, cast your mind back to April 25, 1915 in the early hours of dawn, and the images of men being shot, falling into the water and disappearing under the weight of their back packs never to be seen again, takes hold. Suddenly the beach is not a tranquil place but a bloody strip of pebbles with bodies piled high and confusion running supreme as they try to figure out, in the dark, where the fire is coming from and trying desperately to take shelter where there is none to take. For the first time in history, you can actually appreciate the words of Charles Edwin Woodrow Bean, Australia’s official war correspondent and historian:

“ The sight of hills as we got closer, and could see what they really were, made one realise what our men had really done.”

At Shell Beach, actually finding Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick’s tomb stone was like finding gold. Suddenly the legend does have a resting place. You cast your mind to the legend and you can actually feel the presence of Simpson and you see before your eyes Abdul, Murphy, or Duffy as his donkey was known carrying the wounded, and you wonder how he survived so many days. Nothing protected him or his donkey from snipers high up on the cliff. What courage, what determination made him carry the wounded to safety until May 19 when he was killed by machine-gun fire while carrying two wounded men.

Then you walk along the road to Shrapnel Valley where the second largest cemetery, after Lone Pine Cemetery, in the ANZAC sector of the Gallipoli peninsula is located. It was the most peaceful and quiet place for contemplation as we sat beneath the beautiful flowering Judas trees. Then we trekked up to Plugge's Plateau cemetery (21 burials), which is the smallest cemetery on the Peninsula, and is only accessible along a steep footpath from behind Shrapnel Valley Cemetery.

The plateau was named after Colonel Arthur Plugge, commanding the Auckland Battalion, who placed his headquarters there. It was up towards the heights of Plugge’s Plateau that the 11th Battalion, AIF, struggled after their dawn landing on 25 April 1915 at North Beach. As we moved onto Shell Green, the historical significance of each of the sites became apparent.

At Chunuk Bair, which was one of the main objectives in the Battle of Sair Bair fought 6 – 10 August 1915, yet again you realise that the soldiers were not only fighting the enemy but the terrain was also an enemy to contend with. We then moved on to the Nek. The Nek is a narrow stretch of ridge in the ANZAC battlefield (as it is known today). The terrain itself is a natural bottleneck and easy to defend, as had been proved during a Turkish attack in May. It connected the ANZAC trenches known as “Russell’s Top” to the knoll, called “Baby 700,” on which the Turkish defenders were entrenched. In total area, the Nek is about the size of three tennis courts. On 7 August 1915, two regiments of the Australian 3rd Light Horse Brigade mounted a tragic and futile attack on the Turkish trenches on Baby 700. The Australian casualties from the 3rd Light Horse Brigade numbered 372; 234 from the 8th Light Horse Regiment, of which 154 were killed, and 138 from the 10th, of which 80 were killed.

We were privileged to have noted historian Kenan Celik OAM MA, the first Turkish man to be awarded the Order of Australia Medal, spend a day with us and provide the Turkish perspective. Professor Celik is a retired professor of literature, from the 18th March University at Canakkale, and now known as probably the best guide in the Gallipoli peninsula. At Bigali village we were shown Ataturk’s headquarters during the Gallipoli campaign. We learnt of his passion for his people and his motivation that led his nation.

The Turkish Sixteen Division Field Hospital Cemetery and Memorial is in the shape of the Turkish flag, which expresses the pride of the country when it comes to their fallen soldiers, who are referred to as martyrs.

It was a mass grave, a common way for Turkish soldiers to be buried - a resting place for countless fathers, brothers and sons who gave their lives for their country. The Turkish perspective shone through as Kenan Celik, OAM MA, explained the Turkish losses and we realised their country suffered as much loss and grief as we did.

To continue our tour, we visited Kabatepe Museum. The Kabatepe Museum (or Gallipoli Museum) is located within the Gallipoli Historic National Park. It commemorates the Gallipoli Campaign, now considered a defining moment in the modern history of not only Turkey, but of Australia and New Zealand as well. We then visited Hill 60. The Battle of Hill 60 was the last major assault of the Battle of Gallipoli. It was launched on 21 August 1915 to coincide with the attack on Scimitar Hill.

Kenan Celik then took us to Chunuk Bair and we heard the Turkish perspective on the battle. The attack on Chunuk Bair in August 1915 was one of New Zealand's key events on Gallipoli. Here, on one of the three peaks in the Sari Bair range, the New Zealanders fought hard to win the summit. The victory was short-lived and costly, like so much of this August offensive. Chunuk Bair Memorial is an imposing memorial in this very hilly countryside. We find Johnston's Jolly was on the north end of Plateau 400 in the ANZAC sector, which was captured by the 2nd Australian Infantry Brigade on 25 April 1915, the day of the landing, but recaptured by Turkish forces the following day and remained under Turkish control for the rest of the campaign.

The Turkish National Memorial is huge. It can be seen from many kilometres in all directions, and is the biggest monument on the peninsula. Here we conducted a wreath-laying ceremony amongst all the Turkish people who were also visiting the memorial by numerous busloads. They were honoured that young West Australians would be part of such a ceremony. We, on our part, could not believe the number of Turkish people that make this pilgrimage a normal occurrence. It was incredible and sobering to see so many people at each of the sites paying homage and learning about the history and significance of each of the memorials.

The French Cemetery, which was the only place that used crosses to mark the graves instead of headstones on the whole peninsula was breathtaking in its unique appearance in the Peninsula. The French Cemetery is situated near Morto Bay which, during the war, was well behind the front line but still subject to Turkish shelling from Kum Kale. When the Australians made a forward attack on the 8th of May 1915, the French also attempted to advance but many were killed. This cemetery also honours those that were lost on the French naval ship “Bouvet” which was sunk by the Turks in the Dardanelles.

We continued on to Redoubt Cemetery that got its name from the front line of the British and French Trenches that were created during May 1915. It was from here that we went to “V” Beach on Helles Point where the British tried to land. They attempted to land here as part of their naval invasion of the Gallipoli Peninsula. The many soldiers who died during this sea attack are commemorated on the Point. We visited the Commonwealth Memorial which commemorates the 20,000 Commonwealth sailors and soldiers who lost their lives. After this, we walked to the Seddulbahir Fort which has protected the Dardanelles for the last 400 years.

On our last day on the peninsula, we once again visited the 57th Regiment Memorial to lay a wreath in memory of all those who died and were wounded in this campaign. We now appreciate the huge loss of life that the Turkish people had also endured and felt a similar sort of emotion as we had after leaving other memorial sites. We reflect on our visit to Lone Pine Cemetery and Memorial, named for a solitary Turkish Pine that stood there at the start of the fighting. From the 57th Memorial you can see Lone Pine Memorial, and we once again remember the 8,709 Australian soldiers and 2,701 New Zealand soldiers who were part of the 44,072 Allied soldiers who died in this campaign, with a total of Allies dead and wounded exceeding 141,000. Remembering, also, that Turkey defending their home land had a loss of 86,692 dead and over 164,000 wounded.

This tour was included the historical sites of Istanbul. We were able to appreciate the beauty of the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Saint Antoine Church, Topkapi Palace and see what a modern city Istanbul is with a mixture of the new and old. At Galata Tower we took in the 360 degrees view of Istanbul, which made us realise the size of the city where 8MIL people live. We were also lucky enough to be able to attend and appreciate a performance by the Ottoman Mehter Military Band at the Harbiye Military Museum. The Grand Bazaar and the Spice markets have to be experienced personally to appreciate the colour, the vibrancy and the smells to truly appreciate the cultural mix that is Istanbul.

Obviously, no trip to Turkey is complete without a trip to the ancient city of Troy. Here, we were able to climb inside the Trojan horse and walk amongst the ancient ruins of this magnificent city. Even today it is evident by the ruins that this city that stood over 4000 years ago as the centre of civilisation was a true place of beauty and architectural wonder.

As said at the start, I believe that everyone should visit Turkey to appreciate the beauty, the historical significance of the Gallipoli peninsula, experience the war time connections between the two nations and to see evidence of how history is alive and vibrant today.

I encourage all history students and teachers to enter the Premier’s ANZAC Student Tour competition to have an opportunity of a lifetime that can become a life changing experience.”

Norman Paini’s Story

The Premier’s ANZAC Student Tour 2010 was an amazing experience. To see some of the sites in Istanbul was a wonderful introduction to Turkey. To walk in the footsteps of the ANZACs made us feel humble. Even though I had visited previously in 2004, to see it through the eyes of the students gave me goose bumps.

Visiting the grave sites on the Gallipoli peninsula showed the futility of this campaign.

Seeing the number of young soldiers who died for their country and King filled me with sadness. Visiting the Turkish sites allowed me to see just how the Turks also suffered during this particular campaign- it gave me another perspective.

The friendship that the Turkish people have for Australians shows mutual respect and understanding.

A great experience that ‘All Australians’ should take once in their lifetime.

Alex Roseveare’s Story

Perhaps the greatest joy for me, in being a teacher, is seeing the change that comes over students when they appreciate the really important things; and travel is the best method of making this happen.

I have taken students inter-state and overseas, before ,and the thing that always makes it rewarding is when they’re open wide as they take in the Villers Bretteneux War Memorial at an ANZAC Day Dawn Service, or climb the top of the dome to see over all of Florence, or look out across Canberra from Parliament House.

In escorting the 12 students to Turkey on the Premier’s ANZAC Student Tour, experiences like these occurred every day and everywhere we went; the solemn services at Lone Pine and the Turkish National Memorial, the hikes through the Gallipoli Peninsular and the remains of the ancient city of Troy.

As a Modern History teacher, visiting Gallipoli was the fulfilment of a career-long dream. What made it more remarkable was being able to witness the appreciation for this extraordinary place in our nation’s history develop in the minds of the young people we sent.