In the footsteps of ANZACs

Last month Aurora reported that Maddison Turnbull of Stockton had travelled to Turkey to participate in ANZAC Day ceremonies as a Simpson Prize essay competition winner. This month, after meeting our Prime Minister and experiencing “life changing” moments, Maddy reports.

In the footsteps of ANZACs

My trip to Turkey was an emotionally and physically packed journey which was not only the best experience of my life, but exponentially life changing as well. I now feel that Turkey is a second home, as the Turkish people were extraordinarily friendly, confident, funny, warm and open. I experienced a culture I never expected and appreciate the Turkish more than ever, for as I learnt, their fallen far outweigh the numbers we lost during the brutal campaign with sources ranging from 80,000 to 100,000 and onwards. I also realised that there are always two sides to every story, because the fact of the matter is that we invaded their land almost a century ago.
I found our visits to the cemeteries to be the most emotional aspect of our journey. The epitaphs I saw particularly moved me; the legacy and sentiment eternally recorded is overwhelming. The  glimpse into the soldiers' lives and those of their loved ones is incredibly touching, even in just 60 characters - the word limit families were restricted to, assuming they could afford an epitaph.  Just a few examples: "A dinkum Aussie"; "A place is vacant in our home which can never be filled" and "My only darling son".
So, when it came to reading soldiers' epitaphs publicly at Lone Pine I was naturally very nervous, but not for the reasons I expected. For no matter what I do, I can never bring back those brave soldiers who fought and lost their lives, all I could do was honour them and all Australians who continue to serve on our behalf. Never have I felt so nervous, never had I felt so responsible or emotionally attached to so many I had not met.


Their hardships were impressed upon us by our trek from Shrapnel Valley to the 4th Battalion Parade Ground Cemetery. This hot and long trek produced numerous abrasions as we traversed shrubbery, thorns, pine needles and branches along a so-called 'path'. The experience was intense and my hiking boots definitely came in handy, but most of all the experience gave all the Simpsonites an insight into how fortunate we are. I cannot begin to imagine the logistics of the soldiers' passage through the mountains and hills. We walked the terrain the soldiers endured regularly - and we did it unencumbered by stores and equipment. Problems the ANZACs encountered during the Gallipoli campaign included transportation of bread, meat, vegetables and fruit, artillery, ammunition and water tanks. Diseases such as enteric fever and typhoid which affected approximately a third of those who served during the Gallipoli campaign were worsened by the lack of water available as soldiers evaded fire while collecting supplies. The soldiers also transported water in kerosene tins, leaving green unsanitary water, rationed to about 750ml each day.


 We are so fortunate, peace is such a sacred aspect of our lives. To those I never met, who fought on behalf of all of us, thank you.


The trip to Turkey has taken me to heights I could never have imagined, so I thank everyone who made this journey possible. Thank you to the Australian War Memorial, the History Teacher's Association of Australia, those who supported me at home, my fellow Simpsonites and the Turkish people. Finally, any Year 9 or 10 student studying history in Australia would be mad to deprive themselves of the experiences I have been privileged to experience as a Simpson Prize winner this year!


Until next time, Guele Guele
Maddy Turnbull

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