There is much press in Europe about the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One. In the American press and media, barely a mention. I wonder why this should be. Names like Ypres, The Somme and Verdun are part of the British psyche. Lines of poetry such as:
“Stands the church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?”
“There’s some corner of a foreign field that is forever England”
are well known and much loved and quoted.
In America, not so much.
Two weeks ago I found myself in London with my Niece, Sophie, and we visited the Tower of London where there is being created a vast Memorial to those who died in that War. Over 800,000 ceramic poppies are being arranged in the moat, a huge undertaking by over 5,000 volunteers. We both found the scene quite moving.
Leading up to……..
Here I am in the Dardanelles, previously known as the Hellespont (!), which as every English person knows is the sight of one of WW1’s major engagements, Gallipoli. Previously I had thought that the word Dardanelles referred to an area, of land. But no, it is actually a Strait connecting the Aegean Sea with the Sea of Marmara. (no more geography, I promise).
Getting here was comparatively easy, up at 5.30am, the tour bus picked me up at 6.30 and off I went with a busload of Aussies and Kiwis who both share some splendid epithets for Brits and Americans, so I kept my mouth shut. Five hours later we arrived at Eceabat, on the banks of the Dardanelles. A quick lunch then we were of on a tour of the ANZAC landing grounds of Gallipoli.
Four hours later we returned to the lunch spot severely chastened, heart broken, dazed, tired and emotional. Hundreds of thousands of lives were lost during the campaign and it achieved what again? As far as I could determine, nothing. We visited ANZAC Cove where some of the troops were landed at night, in the wrong place. We saw the Nek, where a naval bombardment was mistimed, allowing enemy forces to regroup and repel the attack. They were all so young, as an Aussie friend back home remarked “They were just babies”. There were fourteen year olds amongst the Allied forces.
Enough from me for now, lets see what tomorrow brings.
Oh, I am off for tea because, yes, there is still honey.