I remember the day well. I had placed a chair beneath the shade of a tree in my backyard and settled into it with a thick wad of paper in my lap. My cousin had given me a copy of my Great Grandfather’s War Records a year or more before which I had put aside for safe keeping. As I leafed through the pages for the first time, reading the handwritten details, I caught sight of the two little words “Anzac Cove”.
It is with trepidation that I embark upon the Gallipoli chapter of my Great Grandfather’s story. I can feel the anxiety rising with each word that my fingers type onto the page, attempting to recreate what transpired. Of course, there is no way of really knowing the exact details of events that changed his life forever. There exists no diary written during his time in the Dardanelles, so I have to resort to the voices of others who lived and fought by his side. The story is well documented, there are many diaries online as well as films on the subject. However, as for William Lyons’ personal experience, I can only guess.
The entire exercise of sending the men to Gallipoli was disastrous to say the least. Reporting by journalists was highly censored and what was printed in newspapers was one huge glorious lie in the name of the British Empire. A brilliant Australian mini series was broadcast last year to coincide with the 100 years anniversary of the first landing on 25th April 1915, called “Deadline Gallipoli”.
This series is set around three journalists and a photographer sent to Gallipoli to report the proceedings, however, they were not allowed to report the truth. Instead:
….. all 4 will face stringent freedoms under General Hamilton (Charles Dance), who vets their reportage to ensure it portrays positive news back home. There is to be “no room for personal opinion, no deviation from the facts” but “rousing reports…. to keep the home fires burning.”
When I researched the number of casualties, I was shocked. The figures of the wounded and dead in that short span of eight months was absolutely tragic. By country, I have listed these below:
- Britain – 21255 dead 52230 wounded
- Australia – 8709 dead, 19441 wounded
- France – 10000 dead, 17000 wounded
- New Zealand – 2779 dead, 5212 wounded
- India – 1358 dead, 3421 wounded
- Newfoundland – 49 dead, 93 wounded
- Ottoman Empire – 86692 dead, 164617 wounded
The total killed: 130842
The total wounded: 262014
As I write my posts I wear the burden of history heavily on my head. Without exact details it is difficult to write. Instead of striving to portray an absolutely accurate account, I have endeavoured to use real events to pose moral questions for you the reader to consider. Armistice Day on 24th May 1915 was a very telling event, whereby both sides of the battle lay down arms and joined forces to bury their dead. Whilst carrying out the grim task, they managed to offer hands of friendship, exchanged souvenirs and cigarettes, showed each other photos of family at home and in some cases, wished each other luck. One must ask, “what was the point of it all, when so called enemies show they can be friends?”
Knowing that William Lyons was there 101 years ago, I am sure he won’t mind, along with the other players in my writings, representing the voices of the thousands of souls who endured horrific conditions at Gallipoli between April and December 1915.