Gallipoli trip of a lifetime
Charlie and Sue Shepherd have recently returned from the trip of a lifetime.
“On November 15 2013 at 12.01pm I went on-line and entered my details for the New Zealand ballot for passes to attend the 100th Anzac Anniversary at Gallipoli in Turkey,”says Sue.
“March 31 I was informed that I missed out but my name stays in, in the event of a redraw. Then, December 1 I receive an email advising me that my name has come out in the ballot and we’re going to Gallipoli."
From there the exciting roller coaster started.
Sue contacted local travel broker Claudia Moir and booked their seven day tour of Turkey, including the Gallipoli services.
The couple arrived in Istanbul on April 19 along with a number of other ballot winners and dignitaries, met their guide, and began their tour.
Arriving at Gallipoli on April 24 they found the place swarming with officers, all armed. Security was tight.
The atmosphere was peaceful but exciting while waiting to move on to the next check area, said Sue. Everyone was gently frisked and luggage checked as well through detectors.
“I wandered through a small cemetery before I got to our last checkpoint for main service. What a peaceful tranquil place. The sun was shining in this area and left you with a feeling that our boys were well looked after.
“The poppies laying against the clean white headstones were just radiant. It’s a beautiful place.”
The last check point to the Gallipoli service was a slow moving one.
“We entered the area and wow! It was so exciting. With ten thousand to seat people were sleeping on the grass.”
Luck saw an usher show Charlie and Sue to two seats in a stand very near the edge of the cliff with Anzac Cove beach right below them and a great view of the bands, singers and guest speakers.
All through the cool night the big screens showed videos of the last 8-9 months of the war.
As the dawn started to appear, the anthems of Australia, New Zealand and Turkey were sung, followed by services which lasted a couple of hours.
For those who wanted to take the walk, it was a seven kilometre march to Chunuk Bair and the Australian service at Lone Pine.
The NZ Youth Ambassadors started in true New Zealand fashion.
“The guitars came out, people started singing, and before you knew it, we were all singing, just like Kiwis do,” says Sue.
“But even better, Prince Charles arrived along with John Key. Charles made his way straight for our stand. I took a photo and then met him and we shook hands. Quite a buzz.”
“The New Zealand service was emotional, moving, and gosh made you feel so so proud,” she continued. “The speakers spoke from the heart, and all the singing came from the heart.”
Charlie and Sue were proud and honoured to have been there, comparing the trip to a division one lotto win.
“Thank you to my bosses and co-workers for putting up with me over the last 16-20 weeks,” says Sue, who works at Molesworth Four Square. “I‘m sure it wasn't easy, but you all let me just soak it all up. Thanks to all the customers who shared my excitement before and after.
“I truly sat there on behalf of all of us. Thanks for all the poppies I was given to lay there, and the privilege of placing a poppy at Gallipoli for Private John Davies, Wayne Neal's grandfather. This will be forever in my heart.”
TOUR OF DUTY: Charlie and Sue Shepherd pictured on the shores of Anzac Cove, Gallipoli. The couple, who placed poppies for friends back home, say the experience was both exciting and emotional.