Organisers say this week’s Anzac commemorations in Gallipoli are a dress rehearsal for the 2015 centenary, but pilgrims on the peninsula disagree.
Australians have started arriving in Gallipoli ahead of Anzac Day and those visiting this year don’t see the 99th commemorations as a dress rehearsal for the 2015 centenary.
Gary Callaghan from Brisbane has accompanied his 64-year-old father Terence, who wanted to pay his respects to his own godfather who fought on the Turkish peninsula in 1915.
The softly spoken 37-year-old is wearing a Kangaroos rugby league jersey as he surveys the headstones at Ari Burnu Cemetery at Anzac Cove.
Gary tells AAP that visiting Gallipoli was on his dad’s “bucket list” and Terence became emotional when he first arrived.
“I can understand why, a lot happened here, a lot of young fellas died at this spot,” Gary says. “There’s a lot of history.”
More than 40,000 people applied for just 10,000 tickets to attend the 2015 centenary, but Gary and his father aren’t sure what the fuss is about.
“Dad said ‘What’s the difference between 99 and 100 years on – it happened back in 1915′.”
Father and son will attend Friday’s dawn service at North Beach.
Authorities are expecting between 5000 and 6000 pilgrims to attend this year – almost half the number who will cram into the commemorative site overlooking the Aegean Sea in 2015.
Aussies visiting Lone Pine ahead of the official services have left messages in the visitor’s book.
Kerry from Western Australia has written: “Amazing. Thank you Turkey.”
“Proud to be Australia,” adds Daniel from Melbourne.
Others – from Toowoomba, South Australia and Queensland – simply note: “Lest we forget.”
Battlefield Tours guide Michael Molkentin worries too many Australians have forgotten the real story of the Gallipoli campaign.
The military historian from Wollongong is doing his best to change that.
Dr Molkentin says the internet has allowed ordinary Australians with no professional training to learn about their family involvement.
In particular, he praises the National Archives’ work digitising 400,000 WWI soldier records.
But people are much less aware of the broader conflict, he argues.
Many don’t realise it started as a British and French naval campaign attacking the Dardanelles.
Others are surprised to learn more French than Australian soldiers died.
Some are astounded to hear Indian troops fought side-by-side as part of the Allied forces.
“The details have become hazier and hazier,” Dr Molkentin said.
“Things become more symbolic.
“(John) Simpson is a great example of that. He’s probably the only soldier your average Australian could name who was at Gallipoli.
“But when people do come here, they get a better understanding of the story.
“We push the legend aside a little bit.”