Gallipoli and the Anzacs

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1. Kilitbahir Fort and Corporal Seyit Memorial, Kilitbahir

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From Çanakkale a small ferry runs across the Straits to the harbour at Kilitbahir. The short passage is dominated by two forts: Çimenlik on the Asian shore, and Kilitbahir, the ‘Key to the Sea’, on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Set above modern apartments on the hill to the right in Çanakkale is a large red sign with gold letters –‘18 Mart 1915’. This is a memorial to the naval battle of 18 March 1915, when the British and French fleet came up the Dardanelles and put Çimenlik and Kilitbahir to the severest test their ancient walls ever had to withstand. American correspondent George Scheiner, sheltering from the bombardment behind Çimenlik, described the shelling as ‘frightful … in Çanakkale houses collapsed as a result of the tremors … [the town] was in flames’.

Historic photo: Turkish gunner

A Turkish artilleryman lifts a 258 kilogram shell, 1915. [AWM A05301] ... Enlarge photo

On the road south of Kilitbahir are a number of old ramparts and ammunition bunkers. The guns are long gone, but the gun positions are still visible and one can imagine, on 18 March 1915, the shells being conveyed up from the ammunition bunkers to keep the guns firing during the Allied naval attack.

Statue of Turkish gunner

The Corporal Seyit statue south of Kilitbahir Castle, Gallipoli, 2006. ... Enlarge photo

Further along the road is a larger than life-size statue of Corporal Seyit. Seyit has in his arms a 275-kilogram shell for his gun battery at the Rumeli Mecidiye Rampart. He was a timber cutter, famous in his village for his great strength and capable of walking around with a log under each arm. At Seyit’s battery on 18 March the machinery bringing the shells to the guns broke down, so he carried them. The particular shell in the statue is probably meant to be the last the battery had on that day, when Seyit took it to the gun and fired it himself. Supposedly it hit and sank the British battleship HMS Ocean, but what also crippled the warship may have been a mine. Accounts vary, but the statue is a tribute to the Turkish gunners who stood firm against the shelling of the Allied warships on a number of occasions in February and March 1915.