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Thursday, 25 August 1994
Page: 437

Senator MICHAEL BAUME (7.26 p.m.) —Yesterday I ran out of time when outlining a day-by-day description by Mr Graham Lee of the damage done to the area of the Australian landing at Gallipoli. Mr Lee is a guide who showed me around Gallipoli when I visited there in January this year and has become a friend of mine. Yesterday I got as far as Saturday, 30 July 1994. His note to me outlining what happened continues as follows:

Treacherous winds drove the fire first one way then another. Overrunning Kabatepe, though missing the museum there, it swept on to Kumkamp, about 8 km south. Like a rampaging monster the fire selected its victims at random. One row of summer houses there was completely razed to the ground, another, whose owner had been told that it had been lost, arrived during the day to find it still standing as if nothing had happened.

It seems as if nothing could stand in the path of devastation as the fire swept on south towards the villages of Behramli, which was evacuated, and Alcitepe, better known to the British as Krithia, where tens of thousands of lives were lost in 1915 in futile full frontal daylight attacks across the open countryside. Before reaching there however the flames of destruction somehow reached a state of exhaustion and the fire petered out amidst the open farmland.

The origin of the fire still remains unclear. Although the `eski muhtar' confessed and was arrested a few days ago the finger of blame has now been pointed at a 15 year old youth of that village. What is clear however is the fire started in the vicinity of either Yalova or Kumkoy village.

The Director of Forests tragically killed on the first night of the fire in fact died during the process of lighting a counter-fire which, if he had succeeded, might have stemmed the conflagration in its early stages.

Gallipoli is a place of deep significance to all Turks and the loss of this incomparably beautiful natural area has been deeply felt by the whole nation. The national newspaper Milliyet started a campaign to replant the millions of lost trees and the Governor of Canakkale province has pledged that this will be done, with the aid of the local military, within a year.

Donations have been flooding in from around the country, small and large, with Koc Holdings, Turkey's second biggest conglomerate pledging 12 milyar lira (1 milyar equals 20,000 English pounds) and the owner of Dardanel-Onentas, a fish-canning factory that is Canakkale's largest employer, chipping in 100 million lira.

Miraculously though, all the memorials and cemeteries that Australians normally visit on a trip to Gallipoli are almost completely untouched. In the main battle area only two of the 31 cemeteries and memorials appear to have succumbed to the flames. Damage inspection of these two is as yet impossible since the rarely-visited Fourth Battalion Parade Ground lies deep in the now-devastated Shrapnel Valley and `Plugge's Plateau', normally reached by a 20 minute stiff climb up a winding footpath, lies surrounded by burnt scrub on top of the first ridge that was captured by the Anzacs as they scrambled ashore under a hail of bullets in the semidarkness of dawn on 25 April 1915.

  Damage assessment also indicates that the Commission lost all the plant stock in their nurseries; scorching of the foliage at Ari Burnu where the Dawn Service takes place every ANZAC day; some grass burnt at Baby 700 where Joseph Lalor, the grandson of Eureka Stockade leader Peter Lalor, is buried and at Shell Green, where the famous cricket match was played in a ruse to convince the Turks that evacuation would not take place, half the cemetery was burnt though with no damage to permanent structures.

In almost every case the cemeteries are now surrounded by a landscape of black and lifeless bushes and trees. The sensation of being in an area which was once a hell of exploding shells and bullets could not be more keenly felt.

The Lone Pine tree, planted from a seed from the original, defied the flames and continues to stand serenely amongst the gravestones, though now scorched up one side. The imposing Australian Memorial still stands majestically at the lower end of the ridge that was the Anzac front line and though fire has consumed the grass surrounding up to the stone itself it will undoubtedly witness in 1995, as it has for so many years, the tributes and tears of Australians as they remember Gallipoli on the forthcoming 80th Anniversary.

The heroic efforts of the firefighters also managed to prevent more serious damage to the Turkish memorials and the only one to be blackened by the fire was that to Nazif Cakmak, a brother of Marshal Fevzi Cakmak, hero of the War of Salvation in the 1920's, on the summit of Chunuk Bair.

That was Graham Lee's summary to me of what had happened. I do hope that some appropriate magazine, perhaps an RSL magazine, considers this worthy of printing, perhaps in an abbreviated form.

  However, it is important for this parliament to recognise that Gallipoli is a heritage area for Australia. Many members of the parliament have visited the area. The recent 75th anniversary celebrations were a matter of great moment to all Australians. I thank Graham Lee for sending me this detailed report on what has happened to this important Australian heritage area.