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A Gallipoli conversation after Anzac Day 2020

Dr Christopher Pugsley
LIEUTENANT COLONEL (RETIRED), ONZM, DPHIL, FRHISTS

Bill and Serpil Sellars are old friends who live in Eceabat (formerly known as Maidos)– the small village and ferry terminal on the Gallipoli Peninsula across the Straits from the provincial capital of Canakkale in Turkey. Eceabat has been my home base for visits to the Peninsula since my first trip in December 1980. Bill is a freelance journalist and writer and his wife Serpil is a television news producer. I met Bill at a conference at the Australian War Memorial in the 1980s when he was giving a paper on Australian prisoners of war under the Ottomans. His research took him to Turkey and, trips aside, he never came back. He met Serpil, worked as a journalist, settled in Eceabat and together, when not feeding their large family of former stray dogs and cats, walk the peninsula. Few know the battlefields better and I link up with them on every visit.

Bill emailed me on 25 April 2020. This is part of the discussion that followed and the story that unfolded.


To: Christopher Pugsley

Sat, 25 Apr at 4:55 pm

Dawn Canterbury Cemetery with Walker’s Ridge on the left and the Sphinx in the background: Dawn, Anzac Day 25 April 2020

Dawn Canterbury Cemetery with Walker’s Ridge on the left and the Sphinx in the background: Dawn, Anzac Day 25 April 2020

W Sellars April 2020© All Rights Reserved.
Dear Dee and Chris,

just back from our own private Dawn Service, just Serpil and myself at Ariburnu Cemetery.

There were some other people at the Anzac Commemorative site, the location of the official dawn services, but we wanted to be at the place and at the time, where the first landing took place.

A wonderful still night, not a breath of wind, not a cloud in the sky and no one else there, just the two of us.

Attached is a photo I took in the dawn light a bit later, Canterbury Cemetery just ahead of sunrise.

Also attached is a photo of the wreath laying at Ariburnu Cemetery on 25 April 1923, following the service on the beach. I think the New Zealander [centre rear in Lemon Squeezer headdress] is Captain Clifton Bigg-Wither, Auckland Mounted Rifles who was on the peninsula post war with the graves registration unit.

All the best

Bill

Wreath-laying 25 April 1923 Ari Burnu Cementery. NZ Representative Captain Bigg-Wither

Wreath-laying 25 April 1923 Ari Burnu Cementery. NZ Representative Captain Bigg-Wither

No known copyright restrictions.


To: William Sellars

Sat, 25 Apr at 8:30 pm

Dear Bill and Serpil

Wonderful imagery both in your words and images. What an unbelievable moment. Eerie and isn't it ironic that the presentation area becomes the meeting point while only those in the know go to where it happened? where it happened. it says much for how our history is passed on?

[Ari Burnu cemetery at the northern tip of Anzac Cove is where the first boats grounded and was the site of the Anzac Day Dawn services. The increase in numbers saw the ceremony move to the Commemoration Site which was first used and dedicated on 25 April 2000 by the PMs of Australia and New Zealand. Today many of the visitors assume this was the actual first landing site] ….

I envy you. I have taken the liberty of sending your email and images to family and friends particularly those who have been to Gallipoli and have met you. I also have sent it to historians various to make them as green with envy as I am…

Chris


To: Christopher Pugsley

27 April 2020

Hi Chris,

Many thanks for sharing. My uncle is buried in the Canterbury Cemetery so this is a very special and emotional picture.

We will remember them.

Carolyn

Carolyn Carr

Chief Librarian, HQ Defence Library


To: Carolyn Carr

27 April 2020

Dear Carolyn

Serendipity. What is his name?

Keep safe

Chris

T


3: 7/157 Sergeant Rory Arnold, Canterbury Mounted Rifles sniped and killed 17 July 1915.

3: 7/157 Sergeant Rory Arnold, Canterbury Mounted Rifles sniped and killed 17 July 1915.

No known copyright restrictions.
To: Christopher Pugsley

27 April 2020

Dear Chris

I know Rory Arnold (7/157) from Nelson – the Canterbury Mounted Regiment.

His grave is in the front row as you enter the cemetery from the road. He was my Dad’s much older brother – almost a generation apart as Dad was a WWII man

Carolyn.


To: Carolyn Carr

27 April 2020

Dear Carolyn

Any letters or diaries? Impact on family? Who in the family visited his grave before you? Your thoughts on seeing his grave? I could tie that all into a blog using Bill's words and the photo for the Auckland Cenotaph. If you are agreeable?

Chris


To: Christopher Pugsley

28 April 2020

Dear Chris,

Oh yes please. That’s a wonderful offer.

Rory Arnold (7/157)

I have a couple of letters sent after he died. The second one I have transcribed at the end as it’s very hard to read.

He had a very small notebook/diary where he talks about the flies and meeting up with his brother not long before he was killed.

His brother Brian Arnold (6/1770 in the Canterbury Infantry Battalion) survived Gallipoli. [He was evacuated sick with Enteric Fever and eventually returned to New Zealand unfit for active service in 1916]

Another brother Richard Arnold (55577) served in the Middle East in WWI. [Richard served with 3rd NZ Machine Gun Squadron in the NZ Mounted Rifles Brigade in Sinai and Palestine in 1917-1918]

And then Dad (Donald Harman Arnold 48934) in WWII including Cassino.

Uncle Rory was shot by a sniper on Walker’s Ridge but is buried in the Canterbury Cemetery so perhaps he was taken to a medical station on the beach before he died.

His twin sister, my Aunt Nora told me she knew he was dead because she had a dream, when it happened, which was of course some time before the telegram arrived. My Dad remembered very little of him because he was only 2 at the time.

He is on the memorial at Kohatu, just out of Nelson. Near there at Tapawera (also the site of a large WWI training camp) is a small museum in which all the men who went from the valley are remembered in biographical files and photos.

So in Dad’s family there were 4 boys (and 4 girls) all of the boys served.

The other 3 returned but were damaged in different ways.

Elizabeth and Carolyn at Uncle Rory\u0027s grave. Canterbury Cemetery on 8 August 2015. Walker’s Ridge is the high ground in the background. Carolyn Carr

Elizabeth and Carolyn at Uncle Rory's grave. Canterbury Cemetery on 8 August 2015. Walker’s Ridge is the high ground in the background. Carolyn Carr

© All Rights Reserved.
My second cousin was the first person in our family to visit his grave about 30 years ago. Then my sister visited about 10 years ago, and another sister and I visited at the time of the 100th Commemoration of Chunuk Bair in August 2015.

My lasting memories of that visit is that he is lying in are peaceful place near the blue blue sea; also, I have nephews his age and the thought of that loss for the immediate family is overwhelming. I do take comfort from the words ‘we will remember them’.

Carolyn


A Century On The District Remembers

Rory worked on the family farm at Kohatu. He was in the 10th (Nelson) Squadron of the Canterbury Mounted Rifles; his mother Jane described the story of his leaving for the War in 1914 with the other boys from the district.

“Rory waved to me as he went out our gate”, she said.

“Then I watched him ride away on his horse until he came to the spot that was the last place on the road that he could see our home. Then he turned his horse, rose in the stirrups and waved to me. I knew I would never see him again”.

 The New Zealand Mounted Rifles Charitable Trust and ANZAC Horses ride to remember.

The New Zealand Mounted Rifles Charitable Trust and ANZAC Horses ride to remember.

© All Rights Reserved.

The ride of the Kohatu Boys to war was re-enacted on Labour Weekend on 21 October 2018 by members of the NZ Mounted Rifles Charitable Trust and a local group, the ANZAC Horses.

It began at the Tapawera Village Green and followed the Motueka Valley Highway to the Kohatu War Memorial where a dedication service was held to honour the memory of our Mounted troops.

At the dedication service, Mrs Carolyn Carr read out the letters to Rory’s family that were received after his death and these are attached as a pdf below and if you look at Rory’s file on the Auckland Cenotaph website there are more images and references to the letters that Rory wrote to his mother before Gallipoli.

 

We will remember them

Ka maumahara tonu tātou ki a rātou

 


 

Dr Christopher Pugsley, ONZM is a New Zealand military historian and former New Zealand Army officer. He is the author of some 20 books: the first of which is Gallipoli: The New Zealand Story. His most recent is Le Quesnoy 1918: New Zealand's Last Battle. He was Curator and Creative Director of the "Scars on the Heart" permanent exhibition at the Auckland War Memorial Museum. He was Historical Director of the current "Gallipoli the Scale of our War Exhibition" at Te Papa Tongarewa - Museum of New Zealand.

Cite this article

Dr Christopher Pugsley. A Gallipoli conversation after Anzac Day 2020. Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. First published: 1 September 2020. Updated: 2 September 2020.
URL: www.aucklandmuseum.com/war-memorial/online-cenotaph/features/Gallipoli-conversation