My name is Madison Penrith, I’m sixteen and in year twelve at Griffith High School. I was one of the lucky four students from my school to travel over to Turkey to celebrate the centenary of The ANZAC landing in Gallipoli. My school was one of twenty-five across NSW drawn from a secret ballot deciding who will attend. It was fully funded by the state government, not including spending money.
To be chosen for this trip I had to prepare a research task based on WWI. My project revolved around Indigenous soldiers within the war and my family connections to both World Wars. It addressed the mistreatment of Aboriginal soldiers after the war compared to comradery shown by all soldiers, Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal, during the war along with rolls played by Indigenous soldiers. I also talked about my great great grandfather and great great uncle who fought in WWI and five of my great uncles who fought in WWII. After presenting my project in the form of a PowerPoint to a panel of judges, I was chosen to be a part of this amazing journey.
We left Griffith on the 19th of April to start our two days of travelling to Turkey. We stayed in Sydney for a day for a debriefing on the trip with the one-hundred of us before jumping on a plane for fifteen hours with a stopover in Dubai and another five hour flight. Then, we were finally in Turkey. The first day consisted of travelling from the airport to our hotel and sleeping off the jet lag.
The next day was spent travelling through Istanbul. After a five hour bus trip we arrived in the Gallipoli Peninsula. The first stop was Anzac Cove along with the beach ceremony. We had a tour guide with us the entire trip telling us all the historical facts of each place. After exploring the beach we went to a museum that portrayed the Turkish perspective on the war in an interesting and interactive way. It was good to be able to see the other side of the war rather than just focus on our Australian history.
The next couple of days were spent exploring the lesser known battle fields. These included the Redoubt, Quinn’s post, and a few more. We learnt how, why and when these battles were fought along with other facts such as how many Australians, Europeans or New Zealanders fought and died there. We also partook in multiple hikes up Plugge’s Plateau and the Turkish Martyr Memorial.
The following day we went up to Lone Pine and looked across the many graves and stood under the one and only pine tree around that area. We then trekked along the second ridge to the Turkish 57th infantry memorial at the very top of the ridge. Also stopping along the way to go through the ANZAC and Turkish trenches seeing just how close they actually were as we realised they were only separated by the width of the tar road. After, we kept moving along the ridge and down to the Nek. As we were paying our respects to the fallen on that battlefield, one of the members of our tour had an original WWI bugle and went on to play the Last Post. He belted out the tune over the battlefields echoing through the rough terrain overlooking the sea and everyone fell silent. It was a touching and very memorable part of the trip.
We visited the City of Troy the following day. We got to tour what was left of the ancient city learning about all the ruins and mysteriously disappearing treasure. We also got to dress up in traditional Trojan dress and get a photo climbing into the Trojan horse. Then came the time to prepare for sleeping on the beach the night before Anzac day. We stopped and had lunch before setting off on the ferry across the Dardanelles. We were then put into a holding area where we slept before the Dawn service called Mimosa Park. Then we prepared our sleeping bags and watched the sunset over the ocean surrounding Anzac Cove.
At 3am we awoke to start our journey to the Dawn service. We all jumped on buses to head to the main beach in Anzac Cove, having a little snooze on the way. When we arrived, about thirty minutes later, we were greeted with the sight of thousands of people gathered together to celebrate this important day. Standing with my peers on that cold morning in Anzac Cove was very emotional, listening to the Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand, The Prince of Wales and many other honourable people was amazing. Although there were thousands of people at this one ceremony it was dead silent, all paying our respects to the brave soldiers who fought there.
After the touching ceremony came the hike up to Lone Pine. As we were walking along we were greeted with the smiles of the Turkish soldiers patrolling the roads. An hour later we were finally at the top of the ridge and joined by our fellow Australians. The Lone Pine service was as equally emotional but a bit more intimate as there weren’t as many people and we were all Australian. After hearing speeches, poems, song and the laying of the wreaths we were emotionally drained for the day.
We then proceeded to walk back down the hill and find our bus for the following five hour bus trip back into Istanbul. Sleeping most of the way, we stopped in for some traditional Turkish food then continued onto our hotel in the heart of Istanbul. After a long and emotional day we went straight to sleep, this time in an actual bed!
The following day was filled with sightseeing throughout Istanbul. We visited places like the Blue Mosque, The Aya Sofya, The Turkish markets and other local restaurants and sights. After the day full of shopping and experiencing the Turkish city we drove to the airport to begin our long journey home. After over twenty-four hours of travelling we were finally home.
I couldn’t wait to tell everyone about my amazing once in a life time trip. It’s an Anzac Day that I will never forget and I am so grateful to be able to be a part of the centenary and to be able to experience the Turkish culture and get another perspective on what exactly happened. Over all it was a life changing experience and I am so happy that I was presented with this opportunity.Contributed by Allison Stewart from Griffith High School. Published 2016.