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Helles Memorial, Cape Helles

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Cape Helles lies at the end of the Gallipoli peninsula, and at the end of Europe. Across the mouth of the Dardanelles lies Asia, the old fort of Kum Kale, and the ruins of ancient Troy. To the north-west is the island of Imroz (Imbros to the Greeks) and beyond that, towering up out of the Aegean, lies Samothrace, where the headless statue of the winged goddess of victory, Nike, was found in 1884. Northwards the vista is over fairly flat countryside to the village of Alçitepe. This is the landscape of the Helles battleground of 1915, and for nine months British and French soldiers gazed from their trench lines on the unattainable heights of the plateau, also called Alçitepe, beyond the village, which had been their objective on 25 April 1915, the first day of the Allied landing.

At the highest point of the cape is the Helles Memorial, a monument to those whose remains lie scattered across the 1915 battlefield. On the stone panels of its walls are the names of 20 752 British Empire servicemen who died in the Gallipoli campaign and who have no known grave. Listed among them are 248 men of the AIF. Why are they not at the memorial to the missing at Lone Pine? At some point someone took the decision to record here the missing Australians of the 2nd Brigade AIF who fought at Helles at the Second Battle of Krithia on 8 May 1915..

There are other important Anzac links with this memorial. Listed at Helles are the main military units of the AIF and the NZEF which fought at Gallipoli. Nowhere else on the peninsula are they honoured in this way, for the Helles Memorial is the ‘battle’ memorial for the whole Gallipoli campaign. On three faces of the great obelisk are the words HELLES, ANZAC and SUVLA, the names given to those three areas of the peninsula where British Empire troops served. This is a place which deserves to be visited by Australians.

Charles Doughty-Wylie’s Grave, Seddülbahir

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In April 1915, just to the north of Seddülbahir village, stood a Turkish fort known as Eskitabya, surrounded by a deep ditch and barbed wire. Fire from this and other nearby positions on 25 April 1915 kept the British landing force tied down to Ertuğrul Koyu (Cove) –‘V Beach’ to the British – below Seddülbahir castle. Little remains of Eskitabya. On that site today, between cypress trees, is the most isolated grave on Gallipoli, that of Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Doughty-Wylie, Royal Welsh Regiment, who was killed in action here on 26 April 1915.

Doughty-Wylie’s is one of the most remarkable Gallipoli stories. A fluent Turkish speaker, he had lived in the country and been awarded the Imperial Ottoman Order of Medijedieh, 2nd Class, for his service to Turkish wounded when working with the Red Cross during the Balkan Wars of 1912–1913. On 25 April 1915, he was working as an intelligence officer on board the improvised landing steamer River Clyde. From there he observed the failure of the British troops, under intense Turkish fire, to get inshore from Ertuğrul Koyu. On the morning of 26 April, along with Captain Garth Walford, Royal Field Artillery, he led the way into Seddülbahir. The village fell, but Doughty-Wylie knew the beach would not be safe until Eskitabya was taken so, at the head of a bayonet charge, he pushed on up the hill. The attack succeeded, but Doughty-Wylie was killed at the edge of the defensive ditch. It is said that, because of his love of the Turkish people, he carried only a walking stick into action.

Doughty-Wylie and Walford, who was also killed, were awarded posthumous Victoria Crosses for their bravery. But an even more extraordinary story is associated with Doughty-Wylie. On 17 November 1915, a small boat brought ashore the only woman on the Allied side to visit Gallipoli during the campaign. She walked through Seddülbahir and up to Eskitabya to Charles Doughty-Wylie’s grave, where she laid a wreath. It was his wife Lillian.

Seddülbahir Fort, V Beach and Yahya Çavuş Memorial, Seddülbahir

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The old Ottoman fort of Seddülbahir, the ‘Barrier of the Sea’, lies at the tip of the Gallipoli peninsula, the end of Europe. On 3 November 1914, Seddülbahir was badly damaged, but not destroyed, by British battleships and 86 Turkish soldiers were killed. There is a fine walk down from the castle to Ertuğrul Koyu (cove) and along the beach towards, on the cliff top beyond, the ruins of Ertuğrul Fort. Looking along to the right from the fort is a memorial, the Yahya Çavuş Şehitliği ve Anıtı, showing three Turkish soliders, a flag unfurled above them, charging with rifles in hand. They face the beach and a British cemetery known by the name that the British gave this place for their landings on 25 April 1915 – V Beach.

To effect the landings, the British ran aground an old steamship, the River Clyde, on one of the rocky arms of the bay. Soldiers were to run out along walkways from doors cut into the side of the ship and then on to barges yoked together reaching to the shore. The plan broke down. The barges did not reach the shore and a number of acts of bravery were performed by British sailors to couple them together under fire. Five Victoria Crosses were awarded for this action, one posthumously to Able Seaman William Charles Willams, who ‘held on to a line in the water for over an hour under heavy fire until killed’.

Determined Turkish opposition held the British back on 25 April 1915. A machine-gun in Seddülbahir forced hundreds of soldiers to seek shelter under the bank leading up from the beach. On the heights beside Ertuğrul Fort, other Turkish positions, one of them led by Sergeant Yahya Chavus, also kept up effective fire. The memorial to Yahya and his men shows them charging with bayonets; in reality they did more damage with well-aimed rifle fire. So many British soldiers died at this landing that a British airman flying overhead observed that the water of the bay ran red with blood. Many who died that morning lie buried in V Beach Cemetery.

Kilitbahir Fort and Corporal Seyit Memorial, Kilitbahir

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From Çanakkale a small ferry runs across the Straits to the harbour at Kilitbahir. The short passage is dominated by two forts: Çimenlik on the Asian shore, and Kilitbahir, the ‘Key to the Sea’, on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Set above modern apartments on the hill to the right in Çanakkale is a large red sign with gold letters –‘18 Mart 1915’. This is a memorial to the naval battle of 18 March 1915, when the British and French fleet came up the Dardanelles and put Çimenlik and Kilitbahir to the severest test their ancient walls ever had to withstand. American correspondent George Scheiner, sheltering from the bombardment behind Çimenlik, described the shelling as ‘frightful … in Çanakkale houses collapsed as a result of the tremors … [the town] was in flames’.

On the road south of Kilitbahir are a number of old ramparts and ammunition bunkers. The guns are long gone, but the gun positions are still visible and one can imagine, on 18 March 1915, the shells being conveyed up from the ammunition bunkers to keep the guns firing during the Allied naval attack.

Further along the road is a larger than life-size statue of Corporal Seyit. Seyit has in his arms a 275-kilogram shell for his gun battery at the Rumeli Mecidiye Rampart. He was a timber cutter, famous in his village for his great strength and capable of walking around with a log under each arm. At Seyit’s battery on 18 March the machinery bringing the shells to the guns broke down, so he carried them. The particular shell in the statue is probably meant to be the last the battery had on that day, when Seyit took it to the gun and fired it himself. Supposedly it hit and sank the British battleship HMS Ocean, but what also crippled the warship may have been a mine. Accounts vary, but the statue is a tribute to the Turkish gunners who stood firm against the shelling of the Allied warships on a number of occasions in February and March 1915.

Historical Background: The Straits of the Dardanelles, November 1914 – April 1915

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When World War I broke out in Europe in early August 1914, the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) initially remained neutral, unable to commit itself fully to either the Central Powers (Germany and Austro-Hungary) or the Allies (Britain, France and Russia). However, on 27 September 1914, Turkey closed the Straits of the Dardanelles (Çanakkale Boğazi) to British, French and Russian shipping and the situation gradually drifted towards war. On 29 October, German warships, ostensibly under Turkish control, bombarded Russian Black Sea ports. Turkey now found itself drawn inexorably into the German sphere of influence, and on 5 November 1914 Britain and France officially declared war on the Ottoman Empire.

In late 1914, as the war in northern Europe developed into the stalemate of the trenches, the British sought another, and supposedly more vulnerable, front on which to attack Germany. They decided on a naval attempt to penetrate the Dardanelles and push on to Istanbul (then known as Constantinople), the Turkish capital. The Ottoman Empire’s support of Germany in the face of a British fleet would then supposedly crumble, and wavering eastern European states, such as Bulgaria and Romania, would enter the war on the Allied side.

Turkey’s response to the British naval threat right from the beginning was to strengthen the fortifications of the Dardanelles. Minefields were laid across the Straits, mobile guns were positioned on both shores, and batteries in various fortresses were brought to a state of war readiness. On 3 November 1914, even before the official declaration of war, British warships bombarded the outer forts at Seddülbahir (‘The Barrier to the Sea’) at Cape Helles on Gallipoli and Kum Kale on the Asian shore. In late February 1915, the British ships returned to complete the destruction of the guns and Royal Marines were landed at both locations to carry out this task.

The inner defences of the Dardanelles did not prove so easy to overcome. It was necessary to sweep the mines aside before the great battleships could come up to engage the forts and push through the narrowest point of the Dardanelles – the Narrows. But all British efforts to deal with the mines with fishing trawlers equipped as minesweepers failed, as the shore batteries found them an easy target. Eventually, it was decided to mount a major attack on the forts protecting the minefields, using 16 British and French battleships and battle cruisers, among them the Royal Navy’s most modern Dreadnought battleship, HMS Queen Elizabeth.

This mighty fleet moved up the Dardanelles on the morning of 18 March 1915. From 12 kilometres down the Straits the warships shelled the forts (Çimenlik and Kilitbahir) at the Narrows, and other forts such as Fort Dardanos below Kephes Point. Initially, the bombardment seemed to be going well and the minesweepers were called up, but then a French battleship, the Bouvet, struck a mine (it may also have been hit by a shell from one of the Turkish batteries on the Gallipoli shore) and sank within minutes, taking almost her entire crew of 600 with her. Two more British battleships also eventually sank. Yet again, the minesweepers made little headway in the face of accurate fire from the Turkish gunners. That night the British decided not to press ahead with the naval attack and Turkey celebrated a victory over the world’s greatest sea power.

Atatürk’s House, Bigali

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On Gallipoli, the back road into the old Anzac area lies north through the village of Büyükanafarta. On this road is the small Turkish village of Bigali, described by Gallipoli historian Les Carlyon as ‘seedy’, ‘lived-in’ and ‘worked hard’. The little café in the main square serves good Turkish coffee and the buzz of local gossip is presided over, as are many public spaces in Turkey, by a bust of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder and first President of the Republic of Turkey. But Bigali’s connection with Atatürk goes well beyond this expected acknowledgement of his national significance after World War I.

To the left of the main square is a long, straggling street, and number 126 is the most significant house in the district. Here, on 25 April 1915, Colonel Mustafa Kemal, commander of the Ottoman Army’s 19th Division, was living. Early that morning came the news that the ‘English’ (Australians) had landed across the peninsula at Ari Burnu. One of the regiments of Kemal’s division, the 57th, was at that moment on parade preparing to head out for manoeuvres near Chunuk Bair. Sensing the significance of the landing, that it was no mere diversionary attack, Kemal set out at once at the head of the regiment with a map in his hand. ‘Mustafa Kemal’, said Zeki Bey, one of Kemal’s officers, ‘didn’t know where Ari Burnu was; on the little maps we then had it was not marked by name’.

Mustafa Kemal was marching to his destiny. Aged 34, he had been sidelined by the rising political leaders of Turkey, the ‘Young Turks’, before 1915. The Gallipoli campaign would make Kemal probably the best-known commander on the spot. Years of war and revolution, however, lay ahead, from which he would emerge as Turkey’s greatest leader of the 20th century and be given the name 'Atatürk', 'Father of the Turks'. His house in Bigali, the ‘Atatürk Evi’, has been turned into a museum. So while Bigali might be a ‘seedy’ old village, it was from this dot on the map that Colonel Mustafa Kemal set out with his soldiers to do battle with the Anzacs on the morning of 25 April 1915.

Chunuk Bair

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The view from Chunuk Bair is breathtaking. The Wellington Battalion – men from the ‘Uttermost Ends of the Earth’, as words on the nearby New Zealand Memorial state – struggled up here at dawn on 8 August 1915, and were momentarily awed by where they were and what they could see. With little opposition, they had taken Chunuk Bair. Spread out to the east was the long watery sliver of the Dardanelles, the capture of which was the whole point of the campaign. The Wellingtons had little time to savour the moment before Turkish fire drove them to ground.

If the New Zealanders could have hung on to Chunuk Bair until strongly reinforced, the outcome of the Gallipoli campaign might have been different. Throughout 8 August, the Wellingtons defended a trench against repeated Turkish attacks. Leading them was someone who has become the best-known New Zealander of the campaign, Lieutenant Colonel William Malone, aged 53. With rifle and bayonet, Malone fought with his men and died that day. ‘Of the 760 Wellington Battalion who had captured the height that morning’, wrote Charles Bean, ‘there came out only 70 unwounded or slightly wounded men … they could talk only in whispers … their eyes were sunken … some broke down and cried’. During 9 August, other New Zealand soldiers hung grimly to Chunuk Bair, but no reinforcements arrived.

Opposite the New Zealand Memorial is a large statue of a Turkish officer, holding a whip, who assumed command at Chunuk Bair on 8 August–Colonel Mustafa Kemal. Kemal summoned the last Turkish reserves to the mountain, and striding out in front of his men, near dawn on 10 August 1915, he held aloft his riding whip. ‘Soldiers!’, Kemal declared, ‘There is no doubt we can defeat the enemy opposing us … When you see the wave of my whip, all of you rush forward together’. At the signal, a great Turkish counter-attack swept over the crest of Chunuk Bair and down the other side, where it was halted by New Zealand machine-guns. But Chunuk Bair had been saved for Turkey, and no Allied soldier ever stood on those heights again.

The Nek

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At the Nek Cemetery it is difficult to realise that there are 326 men buried here. Where are their graves? Beneath the cross are a few headstones, mostly Special Memorials, memorials to soldiers believed to be buried here. Some of these are to Australian light horsemen and carry the date 7 August 1915, the day these men, along with 234 of their comrades, were killed in action at the Nek. In 1919, Lieutenant Cyril Hughes of the Graves Registration Unit found and buried here the unidentifiable remains of more than 300 Australians, men who had died in an area described by Charles Bean, official historian, as a ‘strip the size of three tennis courts’.

These Australian deaths occurred during and shortly after one of the most tragic Australian actions on Gallipoli – the charge at dawn on 7 August 1915 of the 8th and 10th Light Horse Regiments at the Nek. The purpose of the charge was to tie Turkish attention down to this sector as New Zealand troops were supposedly seizing the heights of Chunuk Bair during the great August offensive. This would distract the enemy at the critical moment as the Turks holding the trenches at the Nek realised that Allied soldiers might be coming down the slopes behind them. This did not happen, and the light horsemen rose from their trenches, immediately behind where the cemetery is today, to be met with a hail of bullets. Within three-quarters of an hour three waves of Australians, and part of a fourth, had been cut down, most before they even got near the Turkish lines.

Charles Bean felt this charge would go down as one of the bravest acts in the history of Australians at war. In memorable words, Bean described the scene:

The Nek could be seen crowded with their bodies. At first here and there a man raised his arm to the sky, or tried to drink from his water bottle. But as the sun climbed higher … such movement ceased. Over the whole summit the figures lay still in the quivering sun.

Baby 700 Cemetery

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Up the road to Chunuk Bair beyond Anzac, and off to the right, is Baby 700 Cemetery. During the campaign this was Turkish territory except for a few hours on 25 April 1915. Visitors to the cemetery, Charles Bean wrote, could ‘look towards where Tulloch fought, and know that almost certainly among the graves at their side lay the relics of Lalor and possibly those of Mordaunt Reid’. These were Australian officers who led their men up here from the beach at dawn, their objective being Chunuk Bair. But ‘Baby 700’ hill, and the inland slope of Battleship Hill beyond, was as far as they got, for the Turks fought off any further advance.

That day the battle ebbed and flowed over Baby 700. Captain Eric Tulloch, 11th Battalion (Western Australia), with Lieutenant Leslie Mordaunt Reid, led a party past the right of the cemetery and along the inland slope of Battleship Hill. From there the sunlit waters of the Dardanelles were visible. Turkish fire forced Tulloch’s men to ground and, after fighting there for about half an hour, they withdrew to Baby 700. Mordaunt Reid was severely wounded, crawled away and was never seen again. Tulloch’s advance was as far towards Chunuk Bair as any Anzac came on 25 April 1915. In 1919, Bean found an Australian water bottle with a bullet hole on Battleship Hill, evidence that this was where Tulloch had reached.

At Baby 700 Cemetery a Special Memorial indicates that among the remains of the 493 soldiers buried here are those believed to be of Captain Peter Lalor, 12th Battalion (Western Australia and Tasmania), aged 30. ‘Little Jimmy’ as he was known, was the grandson of Peter Lalor, the leader of the Eureka Rebellion at Ballarat, Victoria, in 1854. As the senior surviving officer of his battalion on the spot, Lalor ‘was the person to whom everyone looked’ and that day he fought for hours in the area behind Baby 700. In mid-afternoon, as the situation deteriorated in front of him, Lalor rose to lead his men forward, and spoke the words, ‘Come on the 12th’, and fell dead from a Turkish bullet.

Turkish Soldier Memorial

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Towering over the Anzac battlefield, just up the road from Quinn’s Post, is the statue of an ordinary Turkish soldier, a ‘Mehmet’. Hans Kannengiesser, a German military adviser to the Ottoman Army, described the Mehmets as brave and trustworthy. Initially, the Allies underestimated the fighting capacity of the Turkish army and many thought it would melt away at the first show of force and the cold steel of a bayonet. As the fighting on 25 April 1915 on the slopes beyond the statue leading up towards the heights of Chunuk Bair (Conkbayiri) revealed, well-led Turkish soldiers would fight for their homeland and stand up to the invaders. And perhaps it was the Anzac’s misfortune that on 25 April they encountered one of the most able of all the Turkish commanders, Colonel Mustafa Kemal.

Kemal arrived with elements of his 19th Division at Chunuk Bair as small parties of Anzacs were making their way up the slopes. Meeting Turkish soldiers fleeing, Kemal asked them why they were running away and they pointed to the Australians saying they had no ammunition. ‘If you haven’t got any ammunition’, Kemal retorted, ‘you have your bayonets’. He made the Turks fix bayonets and lie down in a line in the scrub. The Anzacs, seeing this tactic, did likewise, their impetus up the slope temporarily halted. Kemal’s prompt appearance on the battlefield effectively prevented the Anzacs achieving their aim in this sector – the capture of Chunuk Bair. Turkish counter-attacks later in the day, even if they could not drive them into the sea, herded the invading forces into that small segment of the peninsula known as Anzac, which they defended for the rest of the campaign.

Eventually, the Anzacs developed a high regard for the ordinary Turkish soldier and his fighting qualities. They recognised in the Turk a fellow sufferer in war and acknowledged his humanity. In his poem Anzac Lieutenant Oliver Hogue wrote:

I reckon the Turk respects us, as we respect the Turk; Abdul’s a good clean fighter – we’ve fought him, and we know.

Quinn’s Post

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Quinn’s Post, named after Major Hugh Quinn, 15th Battalion (Queensland) AIF, was one of the most dangerous places at Anzac. ‘Men passing the fork in Monash Valley’, wrote Charles Bean, ‘used to glance at the place (as one of them said) as a man looks at a haunted house’. Quinn’s was positioned on the northern edge of the front line along Second Ridge, and beyond was Deadman’s Ridge, from which the enemy could fire into the side of the post. Other Turkish trenches lay opposite, and the Turks had only to advance a few metres, capture Quinn’s, and the whole Anzac area could be lost.

Until the end of June 1915, the struggles at Quinn’s between Turk and Anzac were ferocious and intense. To raise one’s head above the trench was to invite death from a sniper’s bullet. The fighting was marked by bomb-throwing by both sides into the enemy trench and, early on, the Turks had the better of this as the Anzacs lacked bombs. Eventually, a ‘jam tin’ bomb factory was established and the Anzacs could hit back. Tunnels were dug out from the post to intercept and destroy Turkish tunnels, but at 3.30 am on 29 May 1915 an enemy mine exploded under a section of Quinn’s and the Turks rushed into the post. Desperate fighting took place in the dark trenches but a determined Australian assault broke through and captured 17 prisoners. Among the 33 Australians who died that morning were 11 men of the 13th Battalion who were smothered in the initial Turkish explosion.

While the fighting at Quinn’s was constant, after June its intensity lessened somewhat. On 9 June 1915, the New Zealand Wellington Battalion, led by Lieutenant-Colonel William Malone, took over at Quinn’s and transformed it for the garrison into something which, if never safe, was moderately habitable. Charles Bean reported how he took tea with Malone on a little terrace in front of his dugout and that Malone told him that ‘the art of warfare is the cultivation of the domestic virtues’.

The Ridge

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Along Second Ridge, stretching from Lone Pine to Quinn’s Post, was the heart of the Anzac position. To the left of the road, hugging the tops of the valleys, were the Anzac trenches and just metres away, on the other side of where the road runs today, were the Turks. On 18 May 1915, British planes flying over the area spotted a dense mass of troops assembling in the valleys east of the Anzac line. These reports alerted the Anzac commanders to the fact that a great Turkish attack was in the offing and, indeed, more than 4000 Turkish soldiers were being assembled for a rush on the Anzac line all the way from Quinn’s Post to Bolton’s Ridge. The centre of the attack was to be up the valley roughly between where Johnston’s Jolly and Courtney’s Post cemeteries are today.

The attack came at around 3 am on 19 May 1915. Over the next few hours thousands of Turks were shot down as Anzac rifle and machine-gun fire poured into wave after wave of Turks. Official historian Charles Bean described the attacks at Quinn’s Post as ‘exceedingly gallant’ because ‘the men who made them must have climbed out of trenches already crowded with dead and wounded’. That morning an estimated 7000 Turks were wounded, while 3000 Turkish dead covered the million rifle and machine-gun bullets fired into their midst. Although the attack failed, from then on Anzacs realised they were up against a brave and determined foe and their respect for the Turks grew.

Before long the corpses between the lines were rotting in the sun. A truce was arranged for 24 May 1915 to bury the dead, and Turk and Anzac met for the first time in no-man’s-land. Surveying the scene, a Turkish officer said to Anzac intelligence officer Captain Aubrey Herbert that ‘at this spectacle even the most gentle must feel savage and the most savage must weep’.

Lone Pine

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For three days, from the evening of 6 August until the night of 9 August 1915, the Turkish trenches at Lone Pine were the scene of some of the most desperate fighting at Gallipoli. The Lone Pine cemetery partly covers this old battlefield, the Australian positions to that point being behind the eastern edge, and the Turkish trenches roughly where the pylon of the Lone Pine Memorial now stands. The Battle of Lone Pine began at 5.30 pm on 6 August when, after a preliminary artillery bombardment and with the evening sun slanting down into Turkish eyes, Australians rose from their trenches and charged. They were endeavouring to take and hold the Turkish line and to draw in the Turkish reserves, for this was a diversionary action to avert attention from Chunuk Bair, the objective of the major attack of the August offensive. Within minutes, the Australians had seized the Turkish front line and were into the communication trenches beyond. Now the real battle began.

The Turks were determined to recapture the vital position of Lone Pine. Turkish courage here matched Australian as counter-attack after counter-attack went in along narrow trenches and dark tunnels with bomb, bayonet and rifle. ‘The wounded bodies of both Turks and Anzacs’, wrote Private John Gammage, 1st Battalion (NSW) AIF, ‘were piled up 3 and 4 deep … the bombs simply poured in but as fast as our men went down another would take his place’. One of the Turks who died was Tewfik Bey, commander of the 47th Regiment, who, held responsible for the loss of Lone Pine, led a counter-attack and was killed. But the Australians held on to Lone Pine. When it was all over 2000 Australians and 6000 Turks had been killed or wounded.

A measure of the intensity of the battle is the fact that seven Victoria Crosses, the highest British Empire bravery decoration, were awarded to Australian soldiers at Lone Pine. One of these went to Captain Alfred Shout, 1st Battalion AIF, who was evacuated with terrible wounds but who was ‘still cheerful and sat up to drink tea’. Shout soon died and his name is recorded on the Lone Pine Memorial.

Shrapnel Gully

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Shrapnel Gully, leading into Monash Valley, was the artery of Anzac. Here, men made their way along the valley and up the steep slopes to garrison the trench line along Second Ridge at places such as Quinn’s Post and Pope’s Hill. Up the gully went all the supplies essential to holding the line – food, water, engineering supplies and ammunition –while Turkish shrapnel shells exploded overhead, sending down showers of deadly pellets. Trooper Ion Idriess, 5th Light Horse Regiment (Queensland), reached Anzac in mid-May 1915 and went at once by night into Shrapnel Gully. ‘Shrapnel burst above us in an instantaneous black-grey cloud of smoke’, wrote Idriess, ‘bushes around bent as if under a hailstorm … we quickly learnt the best way of dodging shrapnel … we had to … immediately that scream came tearing directly overhead we would duck down flat’.

Equally lethal in Shrapnel Gully and Monash Valley were the Turkish snipers. These sharpshooters fired from camouflaged sites up on the ridge, and for safety there were sandbag walls between which men dashed as they made their way along the valley floor. Eventually, a deep communication trench, dug along the side of the track, gave better protection, and a party of ‘counter-snipers’, led by Lieutenant T Grace, Wellington Battalion NZEF, took on the Turkish marksmen. Anzac snipers, a rifleman and a spotter with a telescope, lay out all day observing Turkish sniper positions and firing on them when the least movement was observed.

Despite all these precautions there were many casualties in Shrapnel Gully. Undoubtedly the best known is Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick, renowned for his use of donkeys to evacuate wounded men from the slopes of the valley and along to dressing stations at the beach. As he was bringing a wounded man down Monash Valley on the morning of 19 May 1915, Simpson was killed by Turkish machine-gun fire. Simpson’s grave is in Beach Cemetery.

Anzac Cove

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For Australians, Anzac Cove is the best-known spot on Gallipoli. While the dawn landings were spread out over three-quarters of a kilometre of coastline, during the rest of 25 April 1915 the men of the ANZAC corps waded ashore at Anzac Cove. They were sent immediately inland into battle along Second Ridge at places which became famous in the story of Anzac – Lone Pine, Courtney’s Post, Quinn’s Post and the Nek. By the afternoon of 25 April, the beach was crowded with the wounded from the ferocious actions being fought out along the ridges. That day an estimated 2000 wounded passed through the cove, while others lay out on the battlefield awaiting evacuation.

By 1 May 1915, more than 27 000 men of the ANZAC corps had landed at Gallipoli, and Anzac Cove was being transformed into the main port and administrative centre for the Anzac area. Piers were built to offload essential supplies and reinforcements, the best-known being Watson’s Pier, built by a party of the 2nd Australian Field Engineers under the supervision of Lieutenant Stanley Watson of the 1st Division Signal Company AIF. For the remainder of the campaign, huge rectangular piles of boxes were crammed into the narrow beach area and there was a constant fetching and carrying between the cove and the front line along the ridges. Some of this vital transport of supplies was undertaken by an Indian Army unit, the Indian Mule Cart Transport Company.

Up the slopes of the eroded valleys behind Anzac Cove, a virtual town of lean-to shelters, dugouts and more elaborate structures emerged to house the ANZAC staff. Australia’s official historian, Charles Bean, felt that this hillside settlement resembled ‘the Manly of New South Wales or the Victorian Sorrento, while the sleepy tick-tock of rifles from behind the hills suggested the assiduous practice of batsmen at their nets on some neighbouring cricket field’. Any sense of normality suggested here was belied by the fact that the Turks had the range of Anzac Cove and the area was shelled daily throughout the campaign, causing many casualties.

North Beach

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Looming over North Beach is the great natural outcrop of the ‘Sphinx’, so named by the Anzacs who landed here at dawn on 25 April 1915. One of the first waves, the men of the 11th Battalion from Western Australia, came ashore at dawn beneath the slopes leading up to the flat-topped peak to the right of the Sphinx, later known as Plugge’s Plateau. Under fire from the small Turkish garrison that was defending the area, the Australians struggled up towards the plateau, at times using their bayonets to dig into the earth and pull themselves forwards. Soon they were at the top and firing after some Turks who were withdrawing towards a ridge line in the distance. The Australians were moving inland to what would be a day-long struggle with the Turks to hold on at Anzac.

An Anzac who came ashore at North Beach was the ‘Man with the Donkey’, Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick of the 3rd Field Ambulance. During the morning of 25 April the ambulancemen established an aid post and stretcher-bearers scoured the cliffs around the Sphinx for Australian wounded. ‘The Three sections were going for all they were worth’, wrote Captain Douglas McWhae, 3rd Field Ambulance, ‘they had iodine and field dressings; all splints were improvised using rifles and bushes. There were terrible wounds to deal with’.

After August 1915, North Beach was transformed into a major base against the possibility of the Anzacs having to spend the winter on Gallipoli. There were piers, mountains of stores, a tented hospital, a post office and even a YMCA, complete with so-called ‘comforts’ such as chocolate and tobacco. The piers of North Beach were major embarkation points during the evacuation of December 1915, and at 4.10 am on 20 December 1915, Colonel John Paton, the commander of the ‘Rear Party’, the last man to leave Anzac, departed from Williams’ Pier, which ran out into the sea roughly from where the bottom wall of the Anzac Commemorative Site now stands.

Historical Background: Gallipoli, 25 April 1915 – 8 January 1916

Gallipoli, 25 April 1915 – 8 January 1916

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Audio transcript

This failure led to the decision to force the Straits by a landing on the Gallipoli peninsula. Once the Turkish forts and batteries had been seized, the Royal Navy could steam on to Istanbul. A Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (MEF) composed of British Empire and French troops was hastily assembled in Egypt. Among the British Empire forces were the men of the AIF (Australian Imperial Force) and the NZEF (New Zealand Expeditionary Force) who had been training in Egypt when the decision to invade Turkey had been taken. They were now combined into one army corps, known as the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), and the men who fought in the corps became known as Anzacs.

At dawn on 25 April 1915, the Gallipoli campaign began. Australians and New Zealanders landed on the rugged and mountainous western side of the peninsula. The small area captured that day became known as ‘Anzac’ and the little beach where most Anzacs came ashore after the initial attack was soon called Anzac Cove. The aim of the landing was twofold – to capture the heights of the Sari Bair range which dominate this part of the peninsula and to force a way inland to a hill known as Mal Tepe, overlooking the Straits and the Turkish lines of communication to the south.

That same morning, around Cape Helles, the British landed at a number of different locations. Their objective was the high point of a plateau about 11 kilometres from the cape, which ran across the peninsula, known locally as Alçitepe (Achi Baba to the British), and then to progress north from there to join up with the Anzacs. Across the Straits, the French mounted a diversionary landing at Kum Kale. The British position in the south became known as ‘Helles’. But strong and unexpected Turkish resistance held off both these attacks and by the evening of 25 April the landing forces clung to small gains at both Anzac and Helles.

Over the next few days, during the Battle of the Landing, and despite terrible casualties on both sides, the Turks were unable to drive the Anzacs back into the sea. Conversely, the Anzacs made little or no headway against the Turks, and by 5 May 1915 they were left holding a slice of Turkey 1.5 kilometres from north to south and 0.5 kilometres at its widest point. This position was held, with additions of territory to the north during the ‘August offensive’, until the end of the campaign.

During May and June the British undertook a number of operations at Helles, designed to push their line towards Achi Baba and hopefully to break out to the north. All of these actions – the First Battle of Krithia (28 April), the Second Battle of Krithia (8 May) and the Third Battle of Krithia (4 June) – failed. For the Second Battle of Krithia, the 2nd Brigade (Victoria) AIF and the New Zealand Infantry Brigade (about 8000 men) were sent to Helles. On the morning of 8 May, the New Zealanders gained about 360 metres of ground with considerable losses. Late that afternoon, the Australians made a charge over open ground towards the village of Alçitepe (Krithia), suffering similar losses without even reaching the front line. This was the only occasion when Australian and New Zealand infantry fought at Helles, although artillery units also served there.

At both Anzac and Helles things settled into the stalemate of trench warfare – exactly what the Allies had come to Turkey to avoid. The most sensitive part of the Anzac line lay along the ridge (Second Ridge) from the Lone Pine position in the south to Quinn’s Post in the north. At Quinn’s Post, Anzac and Turk faced each other over a few metres of bullet- and bomb-blasted landscape. If the Anzac line gave way here the Turks would look down the valley, Shrapnel Gully, all the way to the sea, and the whole Anzac position would be untenable. Quinn’s became a constant battleground, with endless bomb attacks by both sides. On one occasion the Turks broke into Quinn’s but were quickly driven out.

On 19 May 1915, the Turks mounted a major attack all along the ridge. An estimated 40 000 Turkish soldiers had been assembled to drive the invaders back to the beaches, but the Anzacs received warning of the attack and were ready. Despite their desperate courage the Turkish soldiers were shot down in their hundreds by rifle and machine-gun fire as they charged across the narrow ridge. That morning an estimated 3000 Turks died in this fruitless attack and a further 7000 were wounded. By comparison, there were few Anzac casualties. So great became the stench from the rotting corpses in no-man’s-land that a truce was arranged for 24 May 1915 to allow both sides to bury their dead in pits and trenches between the lines.

By early August 1915 a new plan had been evolved for a breakout at Anzac. On the afternoon of 6 August, Australians mounted a large diversionary attack at Lone Pine, aimed at seizing and holding the front- line Turkish trenches. The strength of the assault was to make the Turks think a major offensive was being launched here and to tie their reserves to those positions. This was achieved over the next two days during some of the most savage and costly trench fighting ever experienced by the AIF. Dozens of brave Turkish counter-attacks were made in an effort to drive the Australians out of their old trenches at Lone Pine, but by the end of 9 August it was clear that the Australians were going to hold on, and that this would be the new Australian front line at Anzac.

As the battle raged at Lone Pine, an Allied force composed of Australian, New Zealand, Indian, Gurkha and British troops made their way in the darkness north from North Beach at Anzac and into the valleys leading up to the heights of the Sari Bair range – Chunuk Bair (Conkbayiri) and Hill 971 (Çimentepe). The objective was to capture these dominating positions and turn the flank at Anzac, compelling the Turks to retreat back across the peninsula. From there, a breakout might be possible and the original aim of the campaign, the seizure of the Dardanelles, might be achieved. To support this new ‘August offensive’ British troops were landed at Suvla Bay on the night of 6–7 August with the intention of getting across the peninsula by way of the low-lying land north of Chunuk Bair.

For three days the struggle raged in the ranges. On 8 August, the New Zealanders, with some British support, reached the peak of Chunuk Bair and dug in there, holding on against increasingly strong Turkish counter-attacks. Further north, Australian forces had become lost in the valleys leading up to Hill 971, the highest point on the peninsula, and never managed to get forward against Turkish opposition.

On 9 August, more Turkish attacks were directed against the New Zealand and British trenches at Chunuk Bair without success, while a Gurkha unit managed to seize a position between there and Hill 971 at Hill Q. But the Allied foothold on the heights was precarious. At dawn on 10 August 1915 the Turks attacked over Chunuk Bair, driving all before them back down the slopes beyond. Here the Turks were themselves shot to ground by the New Zealand machine-guns, but Chunuk Bair was safe and never again threatened. The British landings at Suvla were a disaster and no real headway was made there. The August offensive had failed and in many ways, despite some bitter fighting to straighten out the new line between Anzac and Suvla, the serious fighting was over.

After the August offensive the Allies prepared for a winter on the peninsula. At Anzac a large base was built up at North Beach, but discussions were already taking place back in London as to whether the positions at Gallipoli were viable at all. After a visit by the British Secretary of State for War, Field Marshal Lord Kitchener, the British government determined on evacuation. There were concerns about winter gales as storms during October and November wrecked piers at Anzac. It was also feared that the Turks would be able to bring in heavy artillery to shell the precarious Anzac positions. On 29 November, such a bombardment did indeed occur at Lone Pine, with significant casualties and considerable damage to the trenches. It was an indication of what might happen.

Between late November and 19–20 December, the garrisons at Anzac and Suvla were gradually withdrawn. Elaborate precautions were taken to make the Turks think that life was proceeding as normal until, on the morning of 20 December 1915, the last Anzac embarked from North Beach. On 8 January 1916, the last British troops left Helles. The Gallipoli campaign was over.

Gallipoli cost the Allies 141 000 casualties, of whom more than 44 000 died. Of the dead, 8709 were Australians and 2701 were New Zealanders. The Turks suffered 251 000 casualties, of whom more than 86 000 lost their lives. Countless thousands had been evacuated sick from the various diseases which had plagued both sides, especially during the long hot summer. For the Allies it was a defeat despite the individual courage and endurance of the soldiers themselves. Equally, Turkish soldiers had shown a strength and capacity in defence of their homeland which amazed all who had known the military weaknesses of the old Ottoman Empire.

Ari Burnu Cemetery

Directions

From the Anzac Commemorative Site walk back up to the road. Turn right and walk for about a quarter of a kilometre to Ari Burnu Cemetery at the head of the bay. (You can also reach the cemetery by walking along the beach from the Commemorative Site.) The cemetery is to the right off the road and down an approach path. Go through the cemetery to Ari Burnu point and look out to sea.

Audio transcript

‘Come on, boys they can't hit you’

If you had gazed out to sea in the pre-dawn gloom of 25 April 1915 from Ari Burnu (Bee Point) you would have seen the assembled British invasion fleet which had made the 100 kilometre trip through the night from the Greek island of Lemnos. Facing you would have been a collection of Royal Navy warships – battleships and destroyers (sometimes referred to as torpedo boats) and behind them large transport ships. In these ships were the soldiers of the ANZAC Corps, the 1st Australian Division and the New Zealand and Australian Division. Each man who was to land at dawn in the first wave had been inspected to ensure that he had all his equipment – rifle, pack, two empty sandbags, a full water bottle, 200 rounds of ammunition in his ammunition pouches and two little white bags containing an extra two days ration (a tin of bully beef, small tin of tea and sugar and a supply of hard coarse biscuits).

At 3.30 am, 36 rowing boats in groups of three, each group being towed by a small steamboat, left the battleships Prince of Wales, London and Queen and headed towards the coast. In the boats were six companies (a company contained about a hundred men), about 1200 soldiers from the 9th, 10th and 11th Battalions of the 3rd Australian Infantry Brigade. These men were to be the first ashore and they would be followed in closely by the remainder of their battalions and the 12th Battalion.

The landing was supposed to take place on a beach about a kilometre and a half further south from Ari Burnu and north of the promontory of Gaba Tepe. However, in the dark the battleship tows lost direction, bunched up and converged on Ari Burnu point. As the boat carrying Captain Leane of the 11th Battalion neared the shore he called out and pointed upwards – ‘Look at that’. Charles Bean described the moment:

The figure of a man was on the skyline of the plateau above them. A voice called on the land. From the top of Ari Burnu a rifle flashed. A bullet whizzed overhead and plunged into the sea. A second or two of silence … four or five shots as if from a sentry group. Another pause – then a scattered irregular fire growing very fast. They were discovered …

[Charles Bean, The Story of Anzac, Vol 1, p 252]

As the boats grounded all around Ari Burnu point, men jumped into the water. Some were hit and drowned; most scrambled ashore soaking wet and made for the cover of the sandy banks of the beach. It was quickly realised that they had landed in the wrong place. ‘What are we to do next, Sir?’ someone asked the commanding officer of the 11th Battalion, Lieutenant-Colonel Johnstone. ‘I don’t know, I’m sure. Everything is a terrible muddle’. But the orders had been drummed into this, the ‘Covering Force’: ‘You must go forward … you must get on whatever the opposition’. Lieutenant Talbot-Smith, the leader of the scouts of the 10th Battalion from South Australia, yelled at his men, ‘Come on boys, they can’t hit you’ and then led them straight up the hill towards the Turkish gunfire. Soon there was a general rush by hundreds of Australians up the slopes of Ari Burnu and on up towards the top of Plugge’s Plateau. It was steep enough and hard going with full kit and rifle. Men dug their bayonets into the ground to haul themselves along or grabbed the roots of plants.

Half way up, two 11th Battalion men stumbled on a Turkish trench. Bean has the story:

A single Turk jumped up like a rabbit, threw away his rifle and tried to escape. The nearest man could not fire as his rifle was full of sand. He bayoneted the Turk through his haversack and captured him. ‘Prisoner here!’ he shouted. ‘Shoot the bastard!’ was all the notice they received from others passing up the hill. But as in every battle he fought in the Australian soldier was more humane than in his words. The Turk was sent down to the beach in charge of a wounded man.

[Charles Bean, The Story of Anzac, Vol 1, pp 258–9]

At Ari Burnu the ‘Covering Force’ faced only a small garrison of Turks who had orders to conduct a fighting withdrawal if confronted by a much larger invading force. Shortly after 5 am, the Australians had reached the height of Plugge’s Plateau and taken few casualties. The Turks who had held a trench there were seen retreating back down the steep valley beyond.

Although it seemed successful this initial landing was only the beginning of a long and bloody struggle which lasted the whole of 25 April. While virtually the whole of the ANZAC Corps were able to get ashore that day, intense fighting developed along a ridge inland known as Second Ridge and on the slopes leading north-eastward towards the heights of Koja Temen Tepe. Strong and determined Turkish counter attacks held the Anzacs to the small area described in your Walk Introduction. By the evening of that first day the beach at Anzac Cove just to your left and to the south was crammed with wounded men. Moreover, Turkish artillery fire was bursting shells all over the Anzac area, causing many casualties. Many of the commanders on the spot advised getting off the peninsula as the objectives set for the first day had nowhere been reached and Turkish resistance was stiffening. The head of the so-called Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, General Sir Ian Hamilton, however, was told by his naval commanders that a re-embarkation from the beaches in the dark would be a disaster. At the same time, he heard that the Australian submarine, the AE2, had broken through the straits of the Dardanelles so he sent a message of reassurance which ended:

You have got through the difficult business, now you have only to dig, dig, dig, until you are safe.

So the Anzacs dug in and stayed.

VC Corner, Fromelles

At home, or as you tour the twelve locations of the Australian Remembrance Trail in France and Belgium, listen to a four-minute audio-cast featuring the extraordinary stories of Australian soldiers 'on this spot'. Listen to the audio-cast from your device.

Also available are all 12 audio-casts.

Audio transcript

This is the Australian Memorial Park at Fromelles, in France. Across the flat fields is the VC Corner Australian Cemetery and Memorial and just beyond that along the road, but not really visible unless one stands right beside it, is the Riviere de Layes, little more than a stream cutting across the landscape from the north-east to the south-west. Out in these fields on 11 November 1918 Charles Bean, Australia's official historian of World War I, discovered the remains of the Australian dead of the Battle of Fromelles: 'We found the old no-man's-land simply full of our dead … west of the Laies river … the skulls and bones and torn uniforms were lying about everywhere'.

Bean instructed the photographer who accompanied him to capture images of the landscape around the old battlefield, where more than 5500 men of the 5th Australian Division were killed, wounded or went missing on 19–20 July 1916 during the division's attack on the German lines at Fromelles. One photograph shows a collection of Australian kit—boots and bits of uniform—with two water bottles in the foreground. It is likely that Bean found these close to the river where, he speculated, wounded men had crawled for water. And the most terrible sight after the failed attack at Fromelles was that of the wounded out in no-man's-land. 'Around the Laies', wrote Bean in his history, 'the wounded could be seen everywhere raising their limbs in pain or turning hopelessly, hour after hour, from one side to the other'.

For their comrades watching from the front-line trench, the sight would have been appalling. Every instinct would have urged them to go out and help, but that meant exposure to German fire. Bean mentioned some, and there would have been many others, who rescued the wounded. Company Sergeant Major John Thorburn and Sergeant Alexander Ross, of the 57th Battalion; Corporals William Brown and William Davis, and Privates Edgar Williams and Paul McDonnell, of the 58th Battalion; all, in Bean's words, 'went out boldly by day'. Brown and Davis, although repeatedly fired upon, brought in six men, the last of whom was killed on a stretcher as they tried to manoeuvre him over the parapet of the trench. Brown was severely wounded. Williams and McDonnell were both awarded the Military Medal for saving three wounded and five unwounded men. On the last of these attempts Williams was hit in no-man's-land and went 'missing'. His body was never found.

At the Australian Memorial Park is a statue called 'Cobbers'. It shows Sergeant Simon Fraser, 58th Battalion, carrying in a wounded man on his back. Why 'Cobbers'? That old Australian word for mate is little heard today, but in 1916 Fraser used it in a letter describing his rescue of two men: 'Then another man about 30 yards out sang out, “Don't forget me, cobber". I went in and got four volunteers with stretchers, and we got both men in safely'. So it is not the memory of the military disaster of Fromelles which is remembered here, but rather the courage and compassion of those who risked their lives to help the wounded.

VC Corner, Fromelles

At home, or as you tour the twelve locations of the Australian Remembrance Trail in France and Belgium, listen to a four-minute audio-cast featuring the extraordinary stories of Australian soldiers 'on this spot'. Listen to the audio-cast from your device.

Also available are all 12 audio-casts.

Audio transcript

This is the Australian Memorial Park at Fromelles, in France. Across the flat fields is the VC Corner Australian Cemetery and Memorial and just beyond that along the road, but not really visible unless one stands right beside it, is the Riviere de Layes, little more than a stream cutting across the landscape from the north-east to the south-west. Out in these fields on 11 November 1918 Charles Bean, Australia's official historian of World War I, discovered the remains of the Australian dead of the Battle of Fromelles: 'We found the old no-man's-land simply full of our dead … west of the Laies river … the skulls and bones and torn uniforms were lying about everywhere'.

Bean instructed the photographer who accompanied him to capture images of the landscape around the old battlefield, where more than 5500 men of the 5th Australian Division were killed, wounded or went missing on 19–20 July 1916 during the division's attack on the German lines at Fromelles. One photograph shows a collection of Australian kit—boots and bits of uniform—with two water bottles in the foreground. It is likely that Bean found these close to the river where, he speculated, wounded men had crawled for water. And the most terrible sight after the failed attack at Fromelles was that of the wounded out in no-man's-land. 'Around the Laies', wrote Bean in his history, 'the wounded could be seen everywhere raising their limbs in pain or turning hopelessly, hour after hour, from one side to the other'.

For their comrades watching from the front-line trench, the sight would have been appalling. Every instinct would have urged them to go out and help, but that meant exposure to German fire. Bean mentioned some, and there would have been many others, who rescued the wounded. Company Sergeant Major John Thorburn and Sergeant Alexander Ross, of the 57th Battalion; Corporals William Brown and William Davis, and Privates Edgar Williams and Paul McDonnell, of the 58th Battalion; all, in Bean's words, 'went out boldly by day'. Brown and Davis, although repeatedly fired upon, brought in six men, the last of whom was killed on a stretcher as they tried to manoeuvre him over the parapet of the trench. Brown was severely wounded. Williams and McDonnell were both awarded the Military Medal for saving three wounded and five unwounded men. On the last of these attempts Williams was hit in no-man's-land and went 'missing'. His body was never found.

At the Australian Memorial Park is a statue called 'Cobbers'. It shows Sergeant Simon Fraser, 58th Battalion, carrying in a wounded man on his back. Why 'Cobbers'? That old Australian word for mate is little heard today, but in 1916 Fraser used it in a letter describing his rescue of two men: 'Then another man about 30 yards out sang out, “Don't forget me, cobber". I went in and got four volunteers with stretchers, and we got both men in safely'. So it is not the memory of the military disaster of Fromelles which is remembered here, but rather the courage and compassion of those who risked their lives to help the wounded.

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