What are your legs?
Springs. Steel springs.
What are they going to do?
Gonna hurl me down the track.
How fast can you run?
As fast as a leopard.
How fast are you going to run?
As fast as a leopard!
Then let’s see you do it!
Archy Hamilton preparing himself before climbing out of the trenches to charge the Nek in the final scene of Peter Weir’s Gallipoli (1981)
I thought reminiscing on the dissection of Gallipoli in high-school English class might overshadow the experience of touring the battlefields but watching it again with revised prejudice and a better sense of identity at Eceabat’s Crowded House only enhanced the experience.
The film remains one of the most loved of all Australian films, partly because of its intense nationalism. Its mixture of innocence and sacrifice, youthful high spirits and brutal, industrialised murder, helped to redefine how Australians thought about the First World War. In dramatic terms, it’s one of Weir’s most nakedly emotional films and one of his most poetic, especially during the elegiac finale. It is packed with religious imagery, the final freeze-frame being a form of crucifixion. Source: Curator Paul Byrnes – National Film and Sound Archive
The Gallipoli Peninsula (Gelibolu Yarımadası) was invaded in 1915 by the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, commanded by General Sir Ian Hamilton, after the failure of a British naval bombardment on Turkish defences along the straits of the Dardenelles (Çanakkale Boğazı). The British wanted to capture the Ottoman capital of Istanbul to force Turkey (Germany’s ally) out of the war and open a supply route with Russia for the southern front against Austria-Hungary.
At dawn on April 25, 1915, British troops made the main amphibious landing at Cape Helles to push for Krithia and the Kilitbahir Plateau. Additionally, the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) had intent to land at Gaba Tepe (Kabatepe) and capture the heights of the Sari Bair range but instead drifted north to face the steep scrub covered cliffs and gullies of what is now known as Anzac Cove (Anzak Koyu). There is still conjecture about this being an intentional mistake due to Anzac Cove being less fortified by the Turkish. In both landings none of the objectives were immediately reached and orders were given to dig in and hold on. As the summer heat intensified over the next couple of months, conditions became tough for the soldiers who were experiencing strong counter-attacks from the Turkish. Poor sanitation in the trenches led to plagues of flies encrusting bully beef and outbreaks of dysentry, diarrhoea and typhoid fever.
A new offensive was launched on August 6 with the British landing at Suvla Bay (Suvla Koyu). Simultaneous assaults were made for the high ground of Chunuk Bair, the narrow ridge known as the Nek, and Lone Pine. The August offensive ended in failure, with the summit of Chunuk Bair being reclaimed by the Turkish. Mounting criticism of the invasion and the harsh winter conditions led to the successful withdrawal of 90,000 men from Suvla and Anzac mid-December.
Private John Simpson of the Australian Army Medical Corps is one of the most notable heros of the ANZAC campaign. He was killed four weeks after landing at Gallipoli by machine-gun fire whilst carrying two wounded men and was buried on the beach at Hell Spit.
Simpson would not have made a good peacetime soldier, and he was recklessly independent in war. Instructed to recover and help the wounded he undertook this work enthusiastically. Famously, he used a small donkey to carry men down from the front line, often exposing himself to fire. The bravery of this “man with the donkey” soon became the most prominent symbol of Australian courage and tenacity on Gallipoli. Source: Australian War Memorial
In Turkey, the battle to maintain control of the Gallipoli Peninsula is considered a defining moment in the history of its people, as well as fostering the growth of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the front-line commander of the 19th Division. The occupation of Constantinople and Smyrna by the Allies in the aftermath of World War I prompted the establishment of the Turkish national movement. The Turkish War of Independence, as led by Atatürk, resulted in him being elected the first President of the secular Republic of Turkey, the abolition of the Ottoman Sultanate and the introduction of many radical reforms for the country.