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Gallipoli: From Tauranga to the Trenches

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Gallipoli, From Tauranga to the Trenches exhibition focused on the Gallipoli campaign and provided information, photographs and objects which captured the daily undertakings of soldiers at Gallipoli. The exhibition was initially placed at Masonic Park and then relocated to Classic Flyers as part of a larger First World War exhibition created by Metro Marketing. It opened on Anzac Day and was free to the community for a month. The containers then made their first visit to Te Puke where they were looked after by the Te Puke Library. As part of the exhibition Military Historian Dr Cliff Simons wrote:

“The conditions on Gallipoli defy description. The difficult terrain and close fighting did not allow for many of the dead to be buried. Flies and other vermin flourished in the heat, which caused epidemic sickness. You could smell ANZAC out to sea.

“Men who were fit and healthy rapidly lost condition and became thin and sickly within a few months.  Water had to be brought in and was always in short supply and was often unfit to drink. Bully beef, biscuits, jam, no fresh vegetables or fruit saw men become malnourished and ill. Sickness was a major contributor to casualty figures, the chief causes being dysentery, diarrhoea, and typhoid. Men also suffered from lice and various skin diseases.

“The fighting was often brutal and men lived with a constant fear of attack. There was no break.  Just about everywhere was the front line. Fighting was nearly always uphill and the Turks held the tactical advantage. There was little opportunity to rest and nowhere was safe. There was always strenuous work to be done digging trenches, carrying water and supplies uphill and carrying the wounded.

“Initially the medical system was overwhelmed and men died untreated in the holds of ships or on the beaches. Later hospital ships like the Maheno arrived off-shore and men would be taken there. However, overall, the medical situation was dreadful and men died of their wounds mostly uncared for and often in no-man’s land.

“Understandably at times there was a sense of despair, men saw things and did things that they would never have thought possible. They saw their mates sick and wounded and couldn’t care for them. They saw them die and they couldn’t even bury them. A sense of fatalism grew; death could come randomly at any time.

“Many would have reached deep within their own souls, doubted their courage, their personal qualities, their moral values and wondered what sort of person they would be if they survived. Many carried lifelong physical and emotional scars.”