The enormity of the number of soldiers killed during WWI has left an indelible mark on the landscape. They call them the silent villages, the War Graves and battlefields that dominate the landscape along the Gallipoli peninsula. At almost every turn on a journey through peninsula there is a sign pointing to a cemetery, and it’s only when you see the rows and rows of headstones that you appreciate the scale of the slaughter that happened during WW1.
The Battle of Gallipoli took place from April 25, 1915 to January 9, 1916. Located between the Dardanelles and the Aegean Sea, it was the site of one of the bloodiest battles of World War I. It was seen as a major defeat to the Allies (who were trying to secure a sea route to Russia) and a defining moment for the Turks. It would be the spark to light the fire for Turkish independence years later lead by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, one of the commanders at Gallipoli. And for the the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), the battle would mark a turning point in establishing each country’s national identity.
With the wealth of description posted at many of the 40-mile-long peninsula’s 80 or so cemeteries, lone graves and monuments, and with almost every village boasting heartbreaking, if makeshift, collections of war relics including uniforms, munitions, buckles, false teeth and much else, the Gallipoli experience is as richly informative as it is stirring.
Our tour took in just a few of the cemeteries and battlefields leaving a lasting memory of beautifully maintained park offering fitting memorials to the millions who died in The Great War.
Gallipoli Historical National Park
The Gallipoli peninsular is a historical national park covered in pine forests and fringed by idyllic beaches and coves. It is hard to imagine that this landscape was once a WW1 battlefield where Turks and Allied Forces fought.
The battlefields attract thousands of Turkish each year as well as Australian and New Zealand who view the place as a pilgrimage.
The Turkish discover several tons of war remains annually, which perhaps helps bring some context to the sheer scale of what you’re taking on with the battlefields of Gallipoli. While you can stumble across tiny, walled graveyards at will, planning the sights you want to see is essential. If you have a relative who died in battle check with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (cwgc.org), which can supply details of where they are buried or commemorated.
Gallipoli Driving Overview
There are over 80 cemeteries and more being added all the time. Directions and signposts are extremely confusing. Over the years difference signage has been used but without taking down the old. In addition, you will see normal Turkish highway signs, national park signs and Commonwealth War Graves Commission signs. To add to even more confusion the Turkish troops used different names for the battlefields compared to Allied Forces.
Those with a motorhome and probably more time, can explore the national park in detail. You can do it in a day if you rush it. Two days allows you to visit the key places at a leisurely pace. If you want to see all 60+ cemeteries, find a particular grave or gain further insight into the conflict at Gallipoli then allow at least 3 days.
Note: Don’t park indiscriminately, the roads can be narrow and Turkish farm vehicles and coaches are large and unforgiving.
We arrived at Kilitbahir after taking the ferry Canakkale, so this was our starting point.
The southern section is far less visited and more spread out. The cemeteries are much larger and views of the Dardenelle straits help visualise the war ship passage. The castle tour and bunkers at Kilidulbahir are well restored.
Start at Kilitbahir then head south. The overall route is like a figure eight. Within about 5 minutes of setting off you will start to arrive at small monuments and cemeteries. Immediate you start to look to pin point the name on the map. Don’t bother, you are wasting your time because there are so many sites and the names are all confusing. The first large cemetery is Abide or Canakkale Sehirleri Anıtı, head for this and along the way stop at as many of the smaller cemeteries as you wish. From here just look for the next flag pole and drive to it. Every site has a decent car park except the French Cemetery were you park on some grass at the bottom of the hill and walk up. We have noted the GPS positions of some of the main cemeteries.
- Start Kilidulbahir GPS position N040.147727, E026.380432
- Abide N040.052330, E026.219633
- French N040.053992, E026.208329
- British N040.045410, E026.180791
- Lancashire N040.052988, E026.173798
- Twelve Tree Copse Cemetery N040.088140, E026.215536
- Nuri Yamut Monument N040.101524, E026.211253
- Finish Kabatepe GPS position N040.201100, E026.271932
Time Frame: Approximately 6 hours including lunch & coffee breaks
Kilitbahir Castle & Bunkers
Kilitbahir is a small town and fishing harbour in the southern part of Gallipoli Peninsula. Its importance for tourism is due to the presence of the vast Ottoman fortress and the existence of the ferry terminal that enables crossing the Dardanelles to the Asian shore. The castle is surrounded by an additional line of the outer fortifications with three bastions: Sarıkule, Mecidiye, and Namazgah. Namazgah redoubt is the complex of massive bunkers built in the 19th century, during the reign of Sultan Abdülaziz. The Museum of Naval Battles operates inside this bastion.
Havuzlar & Around
Canakkale Sehirleri Anıtı
Çanakkale Martyrs’ Memorial also known as the Abide (Monument), is a gigantic stone structure that commemorates all the Turkish soldiers who fought and died at Gallipoli.
French War Memorial & Cemetery
French troops, including a regiment of Africans, attacked Kumkale on the shore in March 1915 with complete success, then re-embarked and landed in support of their British comrades-in-arms at Cape Helles, where they were virtually wiped out. The rarely visited French cemetery has rows of metal crosses and five white concrete ossuaries each containing the bones of 3000 soldiers
Morto Bay & Cape Helles
While the Australians and New Zealanders held Anzac Cove, the British and French occupied Cape Helles on the southern tip of the peninsula. In May 1915 some of the Anzacs were redeployed here.
Yahya Çavuş Şehitliği
Remebers the Turkish officer who led the resistance to the Allied landing here, causing heavy casualties. ‘V’ Beach Cemetery
Cape Helles British Memorial
A commanding stone obelisk honouring the 20,000+ Britons and Australians who perished in this area and have no known graves. The initial Allied attack was two pronged, landing on ‘V’ Beach at the tip of the peninsula as well as Anzac Cove.
Lancashire Landing Cemetery
Our home county. Lancashire Landing Cemetery (1252 burials) stands on a cliff overlooking the beach on which the 1st Lancashire Fusiliers landed on 25 April. It was begun immediately after the landings and some further burials were moved into it after the armistice.
Nuri Yamut Monument
Turkish general, who became the 20th Commander of the Turkish Armed Forces on 5 June 1950. He was a career Artillery officer.
Kabatepe or Gaba Tepeis a headland overlooking the northern Aegean Sea. During the First World War, the headland was the site of an Ottoman artillery battery which constantly harassed the ANZAC troops around ANZAC Cove to the north throughout the Gallipoli Campaign.
The northern circuit of the Gallipoli attracts a lot of guided tours and coach parties. This section you see battlefields and cemeteries. Don’t miss Hill 60, one of the few places where the trenches have been preserved. If you are really interested, this should be combined with a visit to the simulation museum. With lots of information and displays on the various battles.
Start at Kabatepe and head to Gallipoli Simulation Centre, which is literally 5 minutes drive. From here follow the signs for the battlefields and the road just takes you along a one way system. You can’t miss any of points and if in doubt just look for a red flag. The majority of cemeteries have reasonable parking space except the cemeteries just after Lone Pine. Here there are no car parks because the road represents no mans land dividing grave sites between Turks and Australians. You eventually return to the Simulation Centre and from here we headed over to Eceabet or if you have time for more cemeteries head towards the beach and Anzac Cove.
- Start Kabatepe GPS position N040.201100, E026.271932
- Museum N040.207623, E026.280858
- Lone Pine N040.229934, E026.288705
- Jolly Johnstons N040.230406, E026.288509
- Quinns Post N040.239032, E026.292385
- New Zealand N40.250206, E026.308779
- Finish Eceabat GPS position N040.186455, E026.359146
Time Frame: Approximately 6 hours including lunch & coffee breaks
The centre cost $80 million dollars and has 11 gallery rooms, each equipped with advanced high-tech simulation equipment. The story of the 1915 Gallipoli naval and land campaigns is told from both Turkish and ANZAC points of view. The technology allows visitors to choose their presentation language and interact with the display.
Kanlısırt Kitabesi describes the battle of Lone Pine from the Turkish viewpoint
Lone Pine Cemetery
This cemetery derives its name from the single pine tree observed to be growing here when the Australian soldiers came up here from the landing on 25 April 1915. From that date through to August there was much heavy fighting at Lone Pine, the rear of the cemetery today marking where the Anzac lines were during those months and the wall and pylon of the Lone Pine Memorial to the Missing marking the region of the Turkish trenches.
Johnstons Jolly & Quinns Post
The area of the Anzac battlefield known as Johnston’s Jolly lies along the ridge just north of Lone Pine. It was named for the commander of the 2nd Australian Division Artillery, Brigadier-General George Johnston, and was reached by Australian soldiers on the morning of the landing of 25 April 1915. The field-guns of Johnston’s artillery were said by the troops, to ‘jolly up’ the Turkish battery opposite.
The Holding Line
For two months the Anzacs occupied this territory – holding the perimeter but unable to push further. They endured hunger, thirst, and sickness, as well as the psychological horrors of war.
57 Alay Cemetery
Cemetery and monument for the Ottoman 57th Regiment. This regiment was led by Mustafa Kemal (later Atatürk) and was responsible for halting the Anzac advance to the high ground of Chanuk Bair.
In August 1915 the Anzacs summoned every last scrap of strength, and attempted a daring plan to take high points on Sari Bair Ridge. New Zealand forces briefly tasted triumph when they captured the summit of Chunuk Bair.
The young men from opposing sides befriending each other in between skirmishes. The Brits, Aussies and Turks would all play football together. Trade cigarettes. Share laughs. And then, when their commanders told them to, they would pick up their guns and kill each other.
On April 25 1915, 16,000 New Zealand and Australian men – ‘Anzacs’ – stormed this cove to fight Ottoman forces. Little went as planned – and the Anzacs were tested physically and mentally.
Plaque by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives… You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours… You, the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.