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27th March, 2016

Canakkale, Turkey

With the sunrise came the Dardanelles, that legendary sea passage that separates Asia from Europe, and on this Easter Sunday we were due to berth in the Turkish port of Canakkale. The city lies on the south side some fifteen miles in from the western entrance and is also a busy ferry port for those folks wishing to cross over to the Gelibolu Peninsular, better known to us as Gallipoli.

The arrival alongside was not without its moments as two tugs were needed to combat a strong cross current.

Mrs R and I joined the tour that was to visit several areas where the campaign that cost so many lives took place just over a hundred years ago. The ferry took our bus over to Eceabat, a small town on the European side with an impressive statue near the ferry landing. In burnished bronze, glistening in the sunlight, it depicted soldiers from both sides intertwined in some kind of gesture depicting the futility rather than the glorification of war. We travelled first to Anzac Cove, named after the Australian and New Zealand troops who landed there on April 25th 1915. The Lone Pine Cemetery, pristine now, has the Australian memorial and was the site of a major battle against Turkish forces in the following August. Moving on, we headed up towards the high ground of Chunuk Bair and the memorial for the New Zealand troops. Here we also came across literally coach loads of Turkish folk, coming to visit the impressive statue of the Turkish commander Kamal Ataturk nearby. He, of course, later went on to be the first president of what became modern Turkey.

After lunch the tour went on towards Cape Helles and the site of the British landings. The Helles Memorial, designed by Sir John Burnett, is the monument for the entire Gallipoli campaign and during our short stop two wreaths donated by Saga were laid by passengers. It was a poignant moment. Having passed through the Dardanelles on several occasions over the years, I felt it was a privilege to finally step ashore on Gallipoli, visit the land we had been taught about during our history lessons and see close up the monuments to the fallen. A sobering, but also rewarding experience.

Captain Philip Rentell

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