Anzac centenary: Hunter students learn of Turkish soldiers before heading to Gallipoli

Hunter students en route to Gallipoli to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Anzac Day have been taught about the Turkish soldiers who faced Australian troops at Anzac Cove.

Craig Shafer.

Craig Shafer.

Twenty students from Maitland and surrounding areas are on their way to Turkey to lay wreaths at the Anzac centenary ceremony on Saturday.

Craig Shafer, one of the chaperones for the journey, wrote to the Mercury to provide an update of how the pilgrimage had been taking shape.

He last checked in on Sunday as the group cruised through the Mediterranean and Aegean seas toward Istanbul.

Mr Shafer wrote that the group learnt about Turkish soldiers during the cruise, which had given the students greater insight into what happened at Gallipoli in 1915.

The Turks, he said, were resourceful, fierce and selfless fighters who had been conditioned in battle during the Balkan Wars in 1912 and 1913.

“They had an intricate network of tracks and supply lines established, which made them very efficient at mobilising their soldiers and resources quickly through the difficult terrain of Gallipoli,” Mr Shafer wrote. 

“Most Anzacs had their rifles disabled upon landing with a cut-off applied to stop bullets leaving the magazine and being fired. 

“This was supposed to stop reported accidental shootings during the first landings. 

“Instead, they had bayonets fixed only, effectively meaning they could only stab someone before first light and certainly could not fire back at the Turks during that time to deter their fire.”

The group from the Hunter also heard about the infamous order of frontline commander Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who told his troops to advance, even if it meant death.

“Australian losses at the landing totalled 4931, New Zealand lost just over 2000 men,” Mr Shafer wrote.

“Overall, Australia lost 8791 men in the Gallipoli campaign alone. 

“Turks suffered approximately 86,000 deaths overall in the campaign – a tragedy for all.

“Now, 100 years on, we must each decide what it means for us as Australians and respond accordingly. 

“For our students here, this means engaging in some reflection time with us and completing some guided reporting to their respective school communities.”