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War tourism

May 13, 2011

Chunuk Bair is part of the New Zealand landscape.  

Far away on the Gallipoli peninsula, in modern-day Turkey, Chunuk Bair is honestly an astonishing place. That blimmin’ hill seems so, so close when you are standing where the British were; you just imagine those ‘boys’ seeing it so clearly every day. It is awful to see how close it is and to think how much death stands between you.  BUT, it’s even worse when you stand where the ANZACs were – when you stand on the beach at Anzac Cove, you can only see cliffs and you just think, seriously, ‘What the hell?!”

It is a place – a National Park and a cemetery – worth experiencing and the Turks really do welcome the ANZACs (as relatives of those poor men who were pushed around by the British – and with whom the Turks share a strange brotherhood as a result of the Gallipoli Campaign).

“ANZAC Cove and the Gallipoli peninsula,” as Julia Fetherston wrote, “are sacred places.  That is indisputable – 2721 New Zealanders died there, with tens of thousands of Australian, British, French and Turkish troops.  To forget that the place is a mass grave is unacceptable.  But most visitors come to commemorate exactly that.  They come because of a belief that there is some knowledge to be had, some experience to be felt, some spirit to be met that can only be encountered on the shores of Gallipoli.  Australian historian Manning Clark called it ‘something too deep for words’.  Typically they find that something, in tearful reflection and ebullient mateship.”

Fetherston also – interestingly – observes that: “It is often said that Gallipoli is a ‘country of the mind’.  But the physical place matters too.”

I really like this idea – that Gallipoli is a country of the mind.  I couldn’t agree more.  It adds meaning to how Fetherston ends her article – by commenting on the significance this place holds for young ‘ANZACs’. Fetherston writes: “To stand on the shores of Gallipoli or in the shadow of Lone Pine; to pause at the graves of young men even younger than oneself is an incomparable experience.  Young people will almost certainly not stay away.  That is not an act of defiance or rebellion.  It is an act of solidarity, of gratitiude, of recognition.  The need to stand on that soil surpasses logic and understanding.”  

I really start to wonder about the role of Gallipoli as a place on the map of modern New Zealand…

War tourism

I shall tentatively call it ‘war tourism’ – an act of remembrance that is part of, or at least reaffirms, our national identity now.  It is connected to the great OE of our adolescence (or post-adolescence, if you prefer) and a much-celebrated ‘act of remembering’ which connects us with our national roots.  Really worth exploring some time!

Ref: Julia Fetherston “Rembering fallen ‘something too deep for words'” Weekend Herald, Saturday April 25th 2009, pA17

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