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Rowing in remembrance: a pipeliner at the Gallipoli centenary

Returning from a trip to Gallipoli, where he rowed in the Gallipoli 100 surfboat event through the Dardanelles, long-time pipeline industry member Ron Trembath talks to The Australian Pipeliner about the experience of being at the famous peninsula for the centenary memorial of the ANZAC landings.

The Gallipoli trip was fantastic – the row and ANZAC Commemoration was magnificent and an unforgettable experience for all involved.

Our two-day commemorative rowing event proved to be hard going.

The weather forecast for the two days of rowing was 14 knot south westerly winds, rain and the temperature drifting between eight to twelve degrees Celsius.

At the start, in a town called Eceabat, we all rugged up and were ready for the hard slog into the wind.

Approximately ten minutes after the start we experienced an unexpected and unexplained change, the wind and rain stopped, the sun came through and the clouds cleared.

Beautiful weather and calm water prevailed for the 30 km row on the first day, which was done in two legs.

The Brighton SLSC Crew from South Australia teamed up with us to share the experience and we rowed alternate legs.

As we packed the boats up for the night the clouds came back, the wind picked up and it started to rain again.

On the second day the exact same thing happened, and we were forced to finish the row short as security would not allow the support buses to go any further.

In true Aussie style we did what was forbidden and landed on sacred ground at ANZAC Cove, beached the boats, raised our oars and after couple of young pipers had played the Last Post we recited the Ode of Remembrance and had a minute’s silence.

I doubt that there was a dry eye on the beach or in the crowd of spectators that gathered on the road above when they saw the boats coming in.

On ANZAC Day we were involved in a special Dawn Service that was set up at Gelibolu, which is the town that the Gallipoli Peninsula is named after.

We arrived at Gelibolu at 1:00am on 25 April. The town was alive with the local people – coffee shops open, market stalls set up – it was quite a welcome.

On the day of the service, we launched the boats at 4:00 am and sat out in the dark waiting for the signal to row in to start the Dawn Service.

Once the shore was reached, all crews stood on the beach with oars raised for the full service then placed poppies on the Memorial at the conclusion.

Our crew was wearing Australian slouch hats and were swamped by locals to have photographs taken with children, adults and families.

We then mixed with locals before heading back to the ship for a few beers and game of “˜Two-Up’, which proved another very special and memorable day.

I was not a big believer in a higher power or guardian angels, however from what was experienced on the days we rowed, I required a rethink as many of us believe the Diggers buried on the hills of Gallipoli were looking after us.

I believe the ANZAC Spirit and pride still lives in all of us and this was obvious by the mateship and passion in our tour group.

An example of this is two Turkish crews who participated in the row.

One crew was going to pull out of the last leg on day two due to an injury, however, a young lady with blistered and bleeding hands from a Kiwi crew that had just changed over went to the Turkish crew and said “I will row the rest of the way with you,” which she did.

I recommend if you have not been to Gallipoli and you have the opportunity go, make sure you do – it is an unforgettable and emotional journey.

The following are the words of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, which appear on memorials at Gallipoli:

“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives… You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore, rest in peace.

There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours…

You, the mothers’ who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”

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