As we pin our poppies to our lapels this morning we should reflect on the young men who landed at ANZAC Cove on the Gallipoli Peninsula more than a hundred years ago.

As the barges dropped their doors to release them into the water lapping at the shore, Turkish bullets hailed down from the hills above and many of them didn't stand a chance - they died on the beach.

Those who made it beyond the beach drove the Turks back, making it marginally safer for those who were to come later.

My grandfather from the Otago Mounted Rifles was one of them and like many of the men who returned from that ghastly place he was reluctant to talk about the experience. It was too awful to remember, he simply wanted to put it out of his mind.


On the odd occasion he did remember though it was with bitterness, of a badly managed campaign that left more than three hundred and twenty three thousand dead, around eight thousand of them Kiwis, after just over eight months of fighting.

When he did talk about it, my Grandad reflected on the futility of war, how he respected the Turks but damned what he saw as the incompetent English command.

Having been to the 90th, and two years ago, to the Centennial commemorations on the bitterly cold peninsula waiting for the sun to rise it was hard to imagine the horror of what these men experienced. Of the absurdity of war, where on occasion the battle weary troops called a truce, leaving their trenches to clear the dead between them while at the same time giving their enemies tobacco and trinkets.

Once the horrible job was done, it was back to their holes in the ground, to resume the shooting.

About the only thing that went right at Gallipoli was the evacuation after the British decided it was a lost cause, they were never going to defeat the Turks. Over ten nights, under the enemy's noses, more than 83 thousand soldiers left. My grandfather was one of the last to leave, he was part of a rear guard to keep up the pretence that the allies were still in place.

The incredible thing you notice when you visit the scene of this worthless battle is the genuine warmth the Turks exhibit towards those who make the pilgrimage every year, many of whom were the progeny of the invading forces.

You'll hear the phrase Lest We Forget a lot tomorrow. My grandfather wanted to forget but he, and all of those who suffered at Gallipoli couldn't, but if remembering is not to repeat the mistakes of the past then it'd be worth it. Unfortunately though history has repeated itself all too often.