UK

Gallipoli Campaign 100th Anniversary Remembered In Service Honouring Anzac Heroes

25/04/2015 09:07 BST | Updated 25/04/2015 09:59 BST

The Prince of Wales and Prince Harry joined more than 10,000 people in a dawn pilgrimage to mark the 100th anniversary of the doomed Gallipoli campaign.

The Australian and New Zealanders in the crowd had sat huddled together overnight to be close to the special site on the Turkish peninsula where a century ago the troops launched an amphibious attack at first light.

The losses were horrific as they hurtled off boats into the teeth of the Turkish defences. What was a terrible defeat for the Allies became celebrated in Australia and New Zealand as Anzac Day - a time for national commemoration.

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Gallipoli Service

A trip to the landing site memorial has long been a traditional stop-off for backpackers from Down Under but on this landmark year, an older group was moved to come.

They stayed overnight in a large arena, huddling together for warmth in sleeping bags and quilted jackets, waiting patiently for the dawn service to begin.

Watching the story of the Gallipoli disaster on big screens, they sat in sombre respect beneath the starry, chilly skies.

A ballot to attend was four times over-subscribed as the 8,120 Australian and 2,000 New Zealand tickets were quickly snapped up.

Many of those attending were elderly and organisers said 1,300 of them would need assistance getting around the site, which is by the beach.

Australia's prime minister Tony Abbott and New Zealand premier John Key were at the ceremony near Anzac Cove. Other dignitaries included Irish president Michael Higgins.

James Griffith, a 59-year-old farmer from Sydney, said he was there to honour his great-uncle Sutton Ferrier, who was awarded the Victoria Cross. The lieutenant died after his hand was blown off when he tried to throw back a grenade.

Mr Griffith said: "I have known about Gallipoli since being a child. The whole country is really excited about it."

Kai Karny-Winters, 14, from New South Wales, was visiting with his father.

He said: "It is amazing to come here and to see the sacrifice and to remember."

Karenza Harris, 42, from Auckland, said the dawn services were a part of New Zealand's culture, but few events back home were as big as this one.

"It is incredible how quiet 10,000 people can be," the sales manager said. She was also impressed by the welcome given to visitors, saying: "Everyone in Turkey has been so friendly to us."

The emotion-packed service started in complete darkness and continued through the dawn and on to 6.30am, after the first light was cast onto the sea behind the stage.

Prime ministers Key and Abbott made speeches about the Anzac spirit and the Prince of Wales gave a moving reading about troops weeping as they left their dead comrades behind when they left Gallipoli.

The prince read the thought of a soldier who wrote: "The hardest feature of the evacuation was in leaving those dead comrades behind.

"They had bequeathed us a sacred trust ... as the party stole away from the line they took off their hats passing the crosses and old hard-bitten Anzacs wept silent tears."

The Last Post was sounded and the sacrifice of the soldiers and their families was remembered in a minute's silence.

Afterwards, Mr Abbott said: "The sheer scale of what they attempted to do ... It was impossible but they did so much and almost succeeded."

Gary Hall, 44, from Melbourne, said: "It is almost a pilgrimage to come here and commemorate what they did."

Sue Harris, from Christchurch, said: "I am here because my grandfather fought here 100 years ago, so I have come from New Zealand to represent my family.

"It was very moving, very emotional. It was certainly worth every cent, I am so pleased I came."