We are delighted to welcome Kobi Watson as our guest blogger. Kobi, 15, is one of the youngest grandson of a Gallipoli veteran (also the youngest member of the Gallipoli Association!), and has just got back to Australia after joining 10,000 others at the Dawn Service at Anzac Cove in Gallipoli on 25th April, 100 years to the day when his grandfather Horace Martyr landed on the same beach. Kobi, from Melbourne like his grandfather, was one of 80 lucky students from the state of Victoria to win a place to represent their country at the centenary event in Turkey. He describes his feelings about being on Anzac Cove below, but first, let’s hear what it was like for his grandfather.
Clambering down from the Clan McGillivray [the troop ship which brought him from Australia] to the waiting destroyer, I was beginning to wish that I was back home in Melbourne and not going in to this Gallipoli place. I could hear the growing sound of rifle and machine-gun fire as we neared the beach and when we got into the landing boats, a couple of the other men in the boat got hit, including one who had half his face shot away. When we got near the shore, the midshipman in the leading boat waved his hand and the little steamer made a half turn leaving us all side-on to the beach. Seeing that we were in for a wet landing I had at least the forethought to put my cigarettes and matches in the inside of my hat. Sure enough, the water was up to my chest and we all scrambled up the beach and crouched behind a small hill.
Horace Martyr was soon in the thick of the action.
Making my way towards the firing line, I see this bloke staggering along with a bad head wound, I could see by his colour flash that he was one of ours but he was covered in blood so I said ‘Who are you mate?’ he answered ‘Sergeant Pollock, A Company.’ I knew him well and I said ‘Yeah, I know you come on and I’ll help you back.’ … He had been shot through under the left ear and out under the right eye.
Kobi’s grandfather managed to carry the wounded Sergeant back to a trench but just as they got there he was shot in the back himself. He wrote, ‘later, a bloke dressed the wound in my guts and later in the day I made it down to the beach just along from where we landed.’ Horace Martyr was evacuated from Gallipoli the next day and recovered in Egypt. He was awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal for his bravery. But the war wasn’t over for Horace. In a few weeks he was back with his comrades in one of the worst battles of all – The Somme. He survived, of course, and returned to Australia and family life: his son Phil was born in 1959, when Horace was 65! This explains how Kobi, born on the first day of the new millennium, is now believed to be the youngest grandson of a Gallipoli veteran.
Amazingly, Kobi spent longer in Turkey than his grandfather did – Horace Martyr managed one long day in Gallipoli but the grandson he never met was on a 9 day tour to Turkey, including two days on the battlefields. Here, he writes about his trip and what it meant to him.
I had the most amazing time while I was away and since coming back it has given me time to reflect on my experience. The first few hours sitting on the plane and getting to know the fellow 80 students going with me was very fun, however remembering names was a problem! We spent the first few days around Istanbul and we got a guided tour of the all the amazing sights to see! During this time I carried around with me a sense of dignity and never lost sight of the real reason why I was there.
For me this was more than a school excursion, as I have the Anzac connection in my blood. I felt saddened at the horrific sacrifices and extraordinary challenges not only my grandfather faced, but the Aussie, English, Turkish, New Zealanders, French and Canadians when they landed on these beaches. It is hard to imagine how a beautiful and tranquil landscape was the scene of such a long, brutal and barbaric battle.
During the dawn service our group stood a fair way at the back and before me was a sea of people. In reality the people in front of me represented every tragic life lost at Gallipoli.
There was a sense of sadness however many of the students didn’t fully understand the monstrosity of what had taken place in this war.
Being fifteen, it could have been me 100 years ago. These young boys signed up as an adventure and took the opportunity to see the world; much the same reason I applied for this trip. These young lads were faced with the harsh reality of war… “To kill or be killed” and to live in appalling conditions and endure extreme terror, fatigue, starvation and illness. I am just grateful that I wasn’t one of those young boys.
I feel privileged to be able to have taken part in what will be undoubtedly one of the biggest memorial events of the 21st century. This opportunity to represent my grandfather, and all the other Anzacs that landed on that beach and to fully understand and appreciate the horrific sacrifices they made for me.