Kenan Çelik picked me up from the Helen Hotel in Canakkale at 9:00 am and we returned nine hours later after touring all the principal locations of the Gallipoli battle field.
Kenan is a well respected academic historian, Rhodes Scholar and AOM. He has guided most Australian Prime Ministers and Governors General since Bob Hawke. On the 25th he will guide Tony Abbott. I gave him a copy of Peter Fitzsimons book, Gallipoli, as he had not read it and he had guided and advised Fitzsimons when he visited Gallipoli.
Everywhere we went he was recognised and people wanted to chat. A Channel 7 reporter bumped into us at ANZAC Cove and asked if he could do an interview. Kenan obliged and grumbled to me that he has done dozens of interviews and no one has ever offered him a cent, but, he rationalised, “it's good publicity.”
On my tour he started by explaining the naval battles in the Bosphorus when the British attempted to force their way to Constantinople. We viewed fortified gun emplacements built inside 15thC fortifications which were damaged by shells from the British ships.
We went on to a 14th C village to see the home of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, army officer and founder of the Republic of Turkey.
In another small village Kenan has a museum of artefacts that he has collected. It seemed to me that the museum comprised a group of room that were part of a farmhouse. He left me to wander in the museum and when I came out he was buying eggs from the farmer lady.
Most memorable of the locations in the battle field were ANZAC Cove, with the view up to the Sphinx, Lone Pine, where 10,000 men died in four days of fighting in an area the size of a football oval, and the Nek, which was the site of the futile series of charges dramatised in Peter Weir's 1981 movie, “Gallipoli”. Kenan says it was a faithful portrayal of events. (But then, he was the consultant.)
Amazingly, about a day after the allied landing and initial advancement, the Turks brought in reinforcements and a stalemate developed. Both sides dug in and despite heroic efforts and enormous losses on both sides there were few gains. Churchill's grand plan became a fiasco.
The ANZACs withdrew in December after eight months of fighting. They had occupied an area, as Kenan put it, the size of a small Australian farm. In all, Churchill's folly cost 132,000 lives more or less. The exact number will never be known.