Where Light Horsemen Lie… (continued)

The Nek is both cemetery and memorial to an ill-conceived attack that went tragically wrong.  At dawn on 7th August 1915, when the 3rd Light Horse Brigade attacked the Turks, the 8th Light Horse Regiment sustained 284 casualties, 154 of whom were killed.   The 10th Light Horse Regiment suffered similarly with 80 dead among its 138 casualties.  The hearts of many Light Horsemen lie here on an area little bigger than a tennis court.

Only seven Light Horsemen lie in the Lone Pine Cemetery.  The Lone Pine memorial lists the names of 3760 of those who fell at Gallipoli and who have no known grave. Once I had visited the Gallipoli Peninsula for the first time, I began to think of the entire ANZAC area as cemetery and a memorial to those who gave their lives and youth to their respective countries. 

 

Research on the Commonwealth War Graves website revealed that at Shrapnel Valley there are the graves of 79 Light Horsemen.  At Shell Green there are 122, while at Ari Burnu there 83.  28 Light Horsemen lie in Beach Cemetery.  More lie in Embarkation Pier Cemetery. The numbers of the lost wartime generation always saddens.  

View towards Lala Baba and Suvla Bay from the Nek (photograph: by Honor Auchinleck, 2009)

Visitors to Gallipoli will always leave the peninsula having learned more than they expected and with far more questions for which answers require more research.  At Beach Cemetery there is also the much-visited grave of John Kirkpatrick Simpson,  (plot 1, row F, grave 1) also known as the man with the donkey.  His epitaph reads ‘He gave his life that others may live’.  Unsurprisingly his example caught the imagination of many, and memorials to the man and his donkey can be found from Kirkpatrick’s hometown of South Shields in northern England to Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance and outside the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

 

Photograph: Mark and Honor Auchinleck’s Collection

Everywhere there are reminders of those from other units and other countries who died at different times and under different circumstances, but in the same conflict.  In January 1998 during our wanders near Hill 60, Mark and I found a human long bone, perhaps a femur.  We buried it beneath an olive tree.  Those who were on opposing sides in life are indistinguishable in death.

Years later when I was working part-time for Cotswold Archaeology I attended a short course in osteo-archaeology at the Oxford University Centre of Continuing Education. We were given soil samples from the Western Front and asked to identify the tiny fragments of human bone – only with a trained eye and with the aid of a microscope could I tell the difference between minute bone and stone fragments. With DNA testing, there is the possibility of discovering identity, but for many they are as the Commonwealth War Graves tombstones testify, ‘Known only to God’. The Gallipoli Peninsula has more than its share of both Allies and Ottomans who are known only to God

The British memorial at Cape Helles (below centre) pays tribute to servicemen who came from all over the Commonwealth while the Turkish memorial commemorates those who lost their lives in defence of their homeland. A short distance from the Turkish Memorial is the French military cemetery.  While tribute is given equally to the Dead, of all the participatory nations the French were often the forgotten contributors at Gallipoli.

Trooper Raymond Howell is one of four Light Horsemen believed to be buried at the Nek and one of six other Australians and four New Zealanders from the Otago Regiment (photograph: Honor Auchinleck 2009)

Photograph: Mark and Honor Auchinleck’s collection

This headstone commemorates the life of Ahmet Hasanoglu.  He was only fifteen years old (photograph: by Mark Auchinleck)