It’s a surreal feeling to gaze out across the quay at 130ft the tall ship sitting proudly at anchor and know that the next seven weeks will be spent aboard.
The sun was warm, as was the greeting by Captain Gav, the staffies and the Voyage Three crew when at last we stepped aboard after a long and snoozy bus ride from Istanbul. As afternoon faded into twilight and a fiery sunset, the excitement and happiness ebbed away, replaced by a restless and expectant energy.
It was difficult to fathom the enormity of the moment that was due to unfold before us in a few short hours. Many were lulled to sleep by the gentle rocking of The Endeavour as she motored slowly through the Dardanelles toward our rendezvous at Anzac Cove. For the others, it was a damp, cold and restless vigil – counting off the hours and spending long periods buried deep within our own thoughts. For my part, I snatched a fitful hour or so beneath a wet weather jacket on the forward port side of the deck after my eyes grew heavy gazing at the foreign constellations that dotted the sky. Adding to the atmosphere, at around 0300 a slowly rolling band of clouds gradually shrouded the stars and turned the setting quarter moon into a blood moon as it sank below the horizon.
With an hour to go until dawn, the ship sleepily stirred into wakefulness and the boiler was worked overtime keeping a double crew well plied with hot drinks to stave off the frigid cold. All aboard were most grateful for the Canakkalian café which was kind enough to lend us two outdoor gas heaters for the vigil. By 0500, the first embers of light began to glint in faint patches amidst the thick cloud cover and the bustle of activity on board ebbed to a low murmur.
Finally, after 5 hours of motoring, the ship manoeuvred into position alongside the line of warships and the wireless crackled into life with a broadcast of the commemoration ceremony. Standing at midships, shivering despite my seven layers, I pondered the thoughts of the Allied soldiers – who would surely have endured a similarly disturbed night en-route to their landing 100 years ago. It’s impossible to imagine the depth of emotion that those men would have felt in the face of the impending trials. Perhaps they had little notion of what awaited them on the shores of Gallipoli – particularly because it was such a green force that landed. In any case, it was clear that the entire crew aboard the Young Endeavour was in a contemplative mood – from the fresh blood to the seasoned returnees to the top brass in their full ceremonial attire.
The speeches rang out over the loudspeaker and the crew absorbed each word before the Oath of Remembrance faded into the Last Post. Although it’s always struck me as a powerful ode, being a part of the shared experience on the Young Endeavour and having such a close reenactment to the original Anzacs magnified the feeling enormously and brought wave after wave of goosebumps to my skin. The clear notes of the bugle ringing across the cold grey morning stirred such a vast array of emotions it was enough for me to simply stand and soak in the feeling shared by millions of people across the globe as we paid tribute to the battle that shaped three nations and is an integral part of a monumental piece of humanity’s history.
Bringing up the rear of the naval salute (attended by five different nations), we witnessed one of the largest naval tributes in history and the line of warships stretching into the horizon was a thrilling sight. For a long while as the ship headed straight toward Anzac Cove, it felt chillingly as though we were headed toward a landing on the placid, pebbly beach but the parade bore to starboard and passed by instead.
I’m certain that the events of the 24th and 25th of April 2015 will take a long while to fully process through my consciousness. I think perhaps that even 100 years on, the world is still coming to terms with the tragedy of Word War 1 and still has many lessons to learn from the rich collection of stories have survived for the past century.