Anzac Cove: A landscape frozen in time or forever changing?
Mark Fuller FAILA
At dawn on the 25th April 1915 Australian soldiers,
followed by the New Zealand infantry brigade, began landing
at Gallipoli at what is now called ANZAC Cove, south of the
headland called Ari Burnu. This was the start of a campaign
lasting seven months which saw over 21,200 British, 10,000
French, 8,700 Australians, 2,700 New Zealanders, 1,350 Indians
and 49 Newfoundlanders killed and over 97,000 Allied wounded.
The Turkish people know this as the Battle of Canakkale and
estimate their casualties in defence of their homeland at 250,000
to 300,000, of whom at least 87,000 died in “one of the
most glorious wars in our history” (Turkish government
The ANZAC landings were conceived by the British
Government following the failed naval attack on the Dardanelles
of February 1915. This attack, a notion of Winston Churchill’s,
arose after a plea from the Tsar of Russia for assistance against
the Turks. It was felt that an aggressive push, showing the
might of the British Royal Navy (albeit using obsolescent battleships),
through the Dardanelles to stand threateningly off Constantinople
(Istanbul), would quickly subdue Turkey who, it was perceived,
had no stomach for a fight. A supply line to Russia would
be assured, a southern front against Austro-Hungary established
(breaking the deadlock in the trenches on the western front),
and the security of the Suez Canal guaranteed.
This plan utterly
failed within a month, with one third of the allied warships
sunk or disabled on a single day, with great loss of life. A
hasty alternative plan was then developed on the run to invade
the Gallipoli peninsula using the army, which had been intended
to have a subsidiary role in support of the navy, to overcome
the Turkish defences and allow the navy through the Dardanelles.
a months delay for hasty preparations, during which the Turkish
forces were able to garrison the Gallipoli peninsula in expectation
of an amphibious assault, landings were made on the 25th April
at several places, with the ANZAC Corps landing about 25 kms
north of the main British force at Ari Burnu, over a kilometre
north of the intended landing site. Rather than the open country
they had expected they faced an impenetrable tangle of steep
hills, gullies, washouts and cliffs. The
only consolation is that even the Turkish forces and their
German commander, Otto Liman von Sanders, did not expect a
landing at this, as he termed it, “waste landscape”.
some initial success, the ANZACs were pushed back to defensive
line that remained substantially unchanged for the rest of
the campaign. With both sides digging in, the campaign became
a battle of attrition, where the character of the landscape
played as much a role in the balance of favour being with the
defenders as the machine guns and howitzers. Conditions that
summer were atrocious, with lice, dysentery, disease, lack
of medical care, lack of appropriate food poor leadership and
pointless sacrifice of life all sapping morale, followed by
an horrendous winter, where men froze at their posts and 16,000
suffered from frostbite.
Having achieved none of their objectives,
the British and Dominion troops were evacuated in December
In spite of the brutality of the war, a mutual
respect by the combatants grew out of the campaign, a special
relationship which lasts in the welcome the Turkish people
give to the descendents of their invaders to this day.
the courage and tenaciousness o fthe “diggers” created
the ANZAC legend. Charles Bean, leader of the Australian
Historical Mission of 1919 sent to solve “the riddles
of ANZAC”, said “Anzac stood, and still stands,
for reckless valour in a good cause, for enterprise, for resourcefulness,
fidelity, comradeship, and endurance that will never own defeat”.
Les Carlyon in his book ‘Gallipoli’ says “Gallipoli
is a country of the mind…Everyone who comes here tries
to paint pictures on the empty landscape”. But
the landscape here hasn’t always been empty.
vegetation of the Park was once Red Pine (Pinus brutia), with
an associated maquis vegetation of Oak, Juniper and Strawberry
Trees. Much of this has been replaced by agriculture in the
lower areas and by afforestation, or destroyed by fires or
the fragmenting effects of roads and settlements. By
1915 forests in the park were said to be “…restricted
to a few patches of pine and oak trees mostly at altitudes
above 200m” (“The Book: Gallipoli Peace Park International
Ideas and Design Competition”).
The steep and rugged landforms
around Anzac Cove are in a process of constant change, resulting
from the highly erodable underlying soils and the sandy free-draining
growing conditions. Steep
gulleys and washouts, with collapsing vertical edges and extensive
talus slopes, contrast with individual points of greater resistance
to erosion, leading to distinctive landforms such as “the
Sphinx” and some higher “plateaux”. Bare,
exposed slopes occur in many areas where these have been undercut,
or where there have been earlier earthworks, and where protecting
vegetation finds it difficult to establish on the loose scree
The battlefields and surrounding areas have
been seen for many years by the Turkish authorities as an opportunity
for reafforestation, and consequently much was planted from
the 1960’s onwards.
These plantations used a limited selection of species of similar
age in spite of the rich variety of climate, geology and geomorphology,
and generally ignored the historical and cultural values of
the area. By the 1980’s the battlefields were covered
with pine forest plantings, but in 1994 a disastrous forest
fire destroyed some 4,000 Ha of the forest. The 1994 fires
once again exposed the “empty landscape”, but this
led to national and international concerns, and a further programme
of reafforestation was substantially implemented, until put
on hold in 1996 and the subsequent setting up of the Gallipoli
Peninsula Peace Park in 1997.
The Peace Park occupies some 33,000
ha and is dedicated to the “active pursuit of harmony,
understanding, tolerance and freedom”. It is registered
by the Ministry of Culture as a natural heritage site and managed
under the Directorate of Wildlife and National Parks. The administration
to…make the park a laboratory for the restoration and
rehabilitation of natural areas” (ibid).
The Peace Park
Book states that the “…commanding
hills, landing beaches, deep and narrow valleys used for attacks
and counter-attacks, slopes dug-in and plains all with their
distinct geomorphologic, ecological and anthropogenic landmarks
offer not only possibilities of visualising personalities,
events and strategies of the 1915 battles but impressive scenery
as no other battlefields in the world do” (ibid).
recognises that the landscape is an “inspirational
landscape”. These have been described as “...places
that inspire emotional, spiritual and/or intellectual responses
or actions because of their physical qualities as well as their
meanings, associations, stories and history.” It is thus
the intangible qualities and open nature of the existing landscape
that is so powerfully evocative of the stories of Anzac campaign,
the tenacity of the troops and the difficulties they faced.
The Gallipoli Peninsula has always been the
crossroads between Europe and Asia. From Alexander the
time it was a place on the way to somewhere, as it was meant
to be for the British Dominion forces. 3000 years ago
this part of world witnessed the Achaean Greek ships heading
for Troy, the city state at the mouth of the Dardanelles. Later
the ancient Athenians ruled in the Peninsula to ensure they
had food for their developing state. Gallipoli itself is a
corruption of Kali Polis, meaning good town in Greek. It is
a landscape that is steeped in European history, but it is
also one where today the local community are generally still
farmers, growing oats, tomatoes, olives and grazing their goats
as they have done for millennia.
However, after over half a
century of benign neglect and peaceful anonymity these farmers
now share their landscape once again with strangers. Into
this quiet landscape every year come thousands of visitors
from across the world. It
is Australia’s largest memorial, a place of pilgrimage
for increasing numbers of people from Australia and New Zealand
and from other parts of the former British Dominions. It is
also a key educational site for the Turkish people, who see
this story as a magnificent defence of their homeland, and
who come in their busloads from all over the country to hear
the stories of these battles.
This complex cultural overlay
gives rise to many challenges. How do we sustainably integrate
this rich and extensive history, a delicately self-sufficient
local community, and a dynamic, constantly evolving landscape
in a way that reflects its cultural importance and provides
future generations with the ability to learn from this unique
of these sites for so many different people gives rise to complex
management conditions. Responsibilities for management of the
sites fall under the control of the Turkish government, but
different agencies, as with all governments, have differing
objectives. The Peace Park objectives are interpreted in different
ways by historians, foresters and ecologists, and indeed by
the hunting enthusiasts. A further complication is that whilst
it is Turkish sovereign land it is subject to the vaguely worded
Treaty of Lausanne and the consequential management in parts
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Article
128 of The Treaty of Lausanne of 1923 binds the Turkish Government
to “…grant to the Governments of the British Empire,
France and Italy respectively and in perpetuity the land within
the Turkish territory in which are situated the graves, cemeteries,
ossuaries or memorials of their soldiers and sailors who fell
in action or died of wounds, accident or disease…” but
then confusingly goes on to state “...The above provisions
shall not affect Turkish… sovereignty over the land
thus granted.” Unhelpfully, the meaning of “grant” is
not defined in the Treaty.
Although much is known about
the 1915 campaign in particular, only now is an historical
survey of the area being commenced. There is little interpretation
of the history of the site located insitu although there are
nearby museums which try to provide a balanced view, particularly
of the 1915 campaign, but there is no overall coordinated approach.
Apart from any individuals pre-preparation, interpretation
and explanation of the events is left up to individual tour
guides, leaving most visitors at the mercy of their sometimes
idiosyncratic viewpoints, where legend blurs with historical
fact and even possible religious objectives. Although there
is great potential, there is little opportunity for cross cultural
understanding to develop.
Many Turkish people feel passionately
that the battlefields should be returned to the original Red
Pine and Oak forest that once covered the country. Regrowth
and new planting threaten to dramatically change this character
by removing the open character and intervisibility of the landscape,
introducing new access roads and increasing soil disturbance
and the risk of fire.
Infrastructure in a sensitive land
numbers to the battlefields are now rapidly increasing, and
once again this fragile landscape is being asked to accommodate
the infrastructure associated with servicing many people. Many
areas are becoming highly impacted by increasing numbers of
regular visitors and associated vehicular traffic (800 buses
at weekends and large numbers of schoolchildren reported).
Parking is uncontrolled and although new carparks have been
constructed these have intrinsic design problems, toilets are
poorly sited and inadequate, and littering is an increasing
problem. Traffic moves at inappropriate speed on inadequate
roads, resulting in a number of areas where there is danger
The Turkish people have always recognised
the importance of the battlefields for the foreign countries
whose soldiers fought them in 1915 and they have always welcomed
visitors. For many years the battlefield sites have been places
of quiet contemplation. They have allowed individual
empathy with the experience of the soldiers of 1915, and the
visualisation of events made possible by the confrontational
qualities of the landscape. There
is a “deep
and inspirational sense of connection to the…landscape,
to the past and to lived experiences” (preamble to the
Burra Charter revised in 1999). For the visitor, once again
coming from “the uttermost ends of the earth” (from
the Chunuk Bair New Zealand memorial) to this evocative place,
it is an opportunity for a personal pilgrimage.
freely access any part of the battlefields, and sheer numbers
are now overwhelming these sensitive and precious sites. Tracks
are over-worn tracks, some with dangers of collapse and showing
signs of erosion and channelling of rain water runoff. Many
are very steep, with no handrails or protection at cliff faces,
crumbling edges, and no facilities such as steps or ramps or
designated points of access to the beach. Artefacts
are fossicked for and taken home, and human remains exposed
and at risk of removal.
Much of the maquis vegetation in areas
where there is a high level of visitor traffic, particularly
along the many informal tracks, appears to be suffering through
trampling, resulting in destruction and death of the plant
material and further erosion of the surface. Given the
harsh growing conditions and the likely slow rate of recovery
it can be assumed that damage to plant material in this way
will have an increasing impact on the environmental values
of the site.
At certain times of the year these sensitive
sites are asked to accommodate thousands of visitors for special
events, for the ANZAC Commemoration and Turkish holidays. Temporary
infrastructure must be deployed, but the roads and pathways
and other visitor facilities must also be designed to accommodate
large numbers of people for these events. Providing this level
of infrastructure threatens the characteristic intimacy and
scale of the landscape.
Recent Events at Anzac Cove
Is the answer to
respond by building more facilities or is it time to develop
a long term proactive management plan?
Most of these issues
have been brought into sharp focus by recent events at Anzac
The landform at the Cove
has been heavily modified by interventions during and since
1915. Until the present roadworks these appear from photographic
records to have been of a scale which have allowed natural
processes to relatively quickly modify and “soften” the
appearance of engineering works and to allow the natural recolonisation
of slopes and cuttings with vegetation.
However the recent
road construction through Anzac Cove has attempted to provide
a solution which significantly enhances traffic movement, but
in doing so has put in place a design which threatens to fundamentally
change the character of this fragile landscape.
A vision needs
to be established which can be shared by all who have an interest
in the area. This vision needs to lead to solutions to questions
What are the special characteristics of Anzac Cove that
need to be retained? The beach? The escarpment? The vegetation?
Who will maintain the area and what level of maintenance
How will it be paid for?
How accessible should the area be to traffic, if at all?
Should pedestrians be free to roam or follow designated paths?
What interpretation should be there and who will prepare
Should the landscape be forever preserved in time, in which
case which time? Should it be left to erode and evolve without
interference? Can a concept of managed erosion be developed?
Decisions have to be made to respond to these pressures, and
the challenge is in the establishment of an appropriate means
to bring together two different cultures to arrive at a shared
vision for the future of this landscape.