It’s like a sudden pang. It took me by surprise. I mean it’s just a name right… a name with hundreds of others just written on a wall? Wrong.
It’s not just a name. It’s the name of my great, great uncle – Ffitch H.H and it's written not far away from where he was killed by a Turkish bullet on a day now known as Anzac Day. There I was at Lone Pine, seeing the terrain he scaled, and the mass grave where he could be buried (no-one knows exactly where his remains lie) and I was really affected by it.
Harry Herbert Ffitch died before my Gran was born but she passed on his story, his sacrifice and his medals. He was a Lieutenant with the Canterbury Regiment and died on the evening of 25 April 1915, at Quinn's Post.
Excerpts of those who witnessed his final moments say he'd fired six shots, he'd just said "missed him" – those were his final words – then he stood up, took aim but was beaten to it by the enemy one can only presume he was aiming at. A bullet cut through the belt of his wrist watch, entered his cheek and he was killed instantaneously.
He never knew the months of horror that followed on the Gallipoli Peninsula, and for that I am grateful but the 15 hours he did endure must've been pure hell.
Standing there looking at the dusty cliffs, it’s incredible to think of how these men maneuvered around them, at times up them, carrying three days of rations, 30 kilos of artillery, a bottle of water while facing heavy gunfire and shelling from the Turkish who were determinedly defending their land.
We walked through some of the recently discovered trenches. I can’t even begin to imagine how our forefathers survived, surrounded by death and disease. What an absolute waste of life!
The majority of these men weren’t career soldiers - they were ordinary blokes doing their duty. My great, great uncle was 25 when he died. He played rugby for Christchurch Boys' High Old Boys, had volunteered with the St John Ambulance and had been one of the first to sign up for war.
His story has become a lot more real in the past few days.
While being here, I've also been struck how much the Turkish suffered during this war. It's not something I knew much about. Both the Allies and the Ottoman forces suffered around 250,000 casualties during the Gallipoli campaign, but the Ottoman death toll was twice that of the Allies. We lost 44,000 (2779 New Zealanders), they lost close to 87,000 – many were locals. They died defending their land, never knowing they had been successful and that the allied forces retreated.
The peninsula is littered with memorials, graveyards and reminders of the battles here. In fact, the region has developed a tourism industry out of it. Buses of Turkish school groups arrive every day to learn about the story of their "heroes and martyrs". Half a world away, we learn of the "losses and the sacrifice". Two different ways to describe the battle, depending on what side you were on.
I got goosebumps 104 years on as the last post sounded during the Anzac Day ceremony at dawn. I choked up during the "now is the hour" service on Chunuk Bair and I connected with our family and nation's history in a very personal way.
My brother (who has inherited our great, great uncle's war medals) kindly lent them to me to bring here. It was a very moving experience to bring them back to the place where he died.
For Lieutenant Harry Herbert Ffitch, his sacrifice, and that of thousands of others, I will not forget, and when my children are old enough to understand, I will bring them here too. It’s something I feel every Kiwi should try to experience.