Today’s blog post come from Young Eco Champion Renae Riviere. In her day job Renae is also Regional Manager for the Illawarra and Shoalhaven Conservation Volunteers Australia network
I am confident you will enjoy this very moving account from Renae……..
I’ve never been a “list writer”, but in 2005 I decided to write a list of all of the things I wanted to achieve in my life; the only thing I ever wrote in it was “Be at Gallipoli for ANZAC Day”, then I either got bored with list writing, or totally forgot about the list altogether.
Then on my birthday in 2011, a work colleague called to ask me to be an assistant group leader on the 2012 Conservation Volunteers Gallipoli Volunteer team on ANZAC Day. Best Birthday present ever!!
Both of my grandfathers served in the Second World War and paying respect to our soldiers has always been important to my family. I don’t remember talking much to my Pa and Pop about the war as a kid; maybe I didn’t ask, or maybe they didn’t want to talk about it with us; I don’t really know. I do remember that I loved looking at their medals though.
In 2006 before I went to Japan I sat down with my Pop and looked through his photo albums from when he went to Japan after the bomb was dropped in Hiroshima. He looked so young in the pictures and even though the place looked so sad and demolished, he and his mates still managed to have a laugh, and they looked like they were making the locals laugh too. He said that he would be keen to hear what Hiroshima looked like now, so I told him that I’d bring home some pictures.
I was in Hiroshima on August 6th 2006 for the 61st anniversary of the bomb, but my Pop died 3 days later, so I never got to tell him about it.
A-Bomb Dome in Hiroshima – one of the few buildings left standing after the bomb.
The Children’s Memorial in Hiroshima. Below this is a huge glass room full of paper cranes.
I’ve always had an interest in the First Wold War too. I studied it in year 12 and have always made sure I have been at a dawn service for ANZAC Day and somehow after my 2 grandfathers died, I feel it is even more poignant. Hearing the Last Post gives most people goose bumps; for me it also reminds me of Pop and Pa as it was played at both of their funerals.
For 7 years the organisation I work for; Conservation Volunteers had worked in partnership with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to take a team of volunteers from Australia and New Zealand to Gallipoli to work at the ANZAC Commemorative Service. The main role of the team is to facilitate a safe and memorable experience for the 6000 or so visitors to the site for the Dawn, Lone Pine and Chunuk Bair services. The Gallipoli Volunteer Team meet and greet people at the gates, hand out info packs and provide a valuable service to the visitors with “special needs” – those who are elderly, ill and/or with mobility issues. This was by far the most rewarding job on the roster; the pace is much slower and you can take the time to have a chat with the visitors as you are assisting them to their special seating area.
In 2012, we took a team of 4 staff and 25 volunteers over to Turkey for ANZAC Day. Our volunteers ranged in age from mid-20’s to mid-60’s and came from a range of different backgrounds; nurses, teachers, retirees and Vietnam Vets, but despite the different backgrounds, everyone bonded really quickly and by the time ANZAC Day came around we were a well-oiled machine.
The veterans in our group stand up and be recognised at the Lone Pine Service and the 2012 leadership team…I’m the short one.
We worked from about 9am on the 24th until the Dawn Service began on the 25th; when we got to stop and actually take in the experience – here we were at ANZAC Cove, watching the sun rise on April 25th! Then it was back to action stations as we assisted the special needs folk up to the Lone Pine Service, which is still very solemn, but somehow a bit more relaxed than the Dawn Service. Then it was back to our hotel for some much needed R and R.
Prior to ANZAC Day we had a week or so to really get to know the Gallipoli Peninsula; we visited cemeteries and battlegrounds, walked the ridgelines our Diggers would have walked and cruised the Agean Sea, allowing us to see the coastline as it would have been seen by the soldiers. All of these experiences were enriched by having both an Australian and a Turkish guide with us, to share both sides of the story.
Having this time to explore the land really blew my mind; I had read about how harsh the conditions were there and about how steep and unforgiving the terrain was, but not until I saw it, and walked it did I truly appreciate it.
The Sphix and Shrapnel Valley ANZAC Cove from the Agean Sea
We’ve all heard the story of the battle at The Nek and how close the ANZAC and Turkish trenches were, but it really hits home when you stand there on the battle field and realise that it’s about the same size as a basketball court.
Before we left Australia, we were all given the name and some details of a soldier from our home town who died in battle at Gallipoli. Mine was Charles Frederick Roy Fell from Balgownie; just a suburb away from mine. He enlisted on May 15th 1915 and died on August 6th 1915. He was just 23 years old. I visited his headstone at Lone Pine and told the rest of the team about him and about the battle he died in. It made me wonder if any of his family had ever had the opportunity to do the same thing. Yesterday for Remembrance Day I went to my local War Memorial and paid my respects to him again.
Charles Fell’s Head Stone and a volunteer placing a poppy at her soldiers plaque
Whilst staying on the peninsula we also had the opportunity to visit the ancient city of Troy; another thing I would probably write on my list…if I were a list writer. It was really amazing to see an ancient history so different from our own. Then we headed into the hustle and bustle of Istanbul for a few days of mosques, shopping, spices, shoe shines, baklava, traffic and more shopping!!
This was by far the most rewarding travel experience that I have ever had and I would recommend to anyone that does get the opportunity to go to Gallipoli for ANZAC Day, don’t just go for the day. Stop for a few days and take it in; make a connection with the place that it all happened in.
Thanks Renae for sharing this moving experience with us and the Art4agriculture team are looking forward immensely to working side by side with you in 2013