DROMANA Secondary College student Kobi Watson had “the most amazing time” at the Gallipoli centenary commemorations in Turkey last month.
The Year 9 student was the only Mornington Peninsula student among 80 from Victoria chosen to attend the Dawn Service at Anzac Cove.
This followed his keynote speech at the Hastings sub-branch’s memorial service at the cenotaph on Remembrance Day in November.
Flying to Turkey on the nine-day tour, Kobi and the group visited the Topkapi Palace museum, Blue Mosque, cruised the Bosphorus river and toured the underground Yerebatan Cistern. “We saw all the sites as planned,” he said. “We went to the Helles Memorial and even had time to explore some of the trenches.”
The Dawn Service was the highlight of the trip.
Kobi – who lives at Balnarring – has a personal link to the conflict. His grandfather Horace Clyde Martyr, 8th battalion, AIF, was the first decorated soldier at the landings and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for gallantry at Anzac Cove, where he was also wounded.
“I feel honoured at being given this opportunity to keep the ANZAC Spirit alive, and to also share and educate my generation about the camaraderie and horrific sacrifices made by our men and women through the Gallipoli campaign,” he said last week.
“Since coming back I have had time to reflect on my experiences. The first few hours sitting on the plane and getting to know the other 80 students was fun, however, remembering all their names was a problem! We spent the first few days around Istanbul on a guided tour of the all the amazing sights. During this time I carried around with me a sense of dignity and never lost sight of the real reason why I was there.
“For me, this was more than a school excursion as I have the Anzac connection in my blood. I felt saddened at the horrific sacrifices and extraordinary challenges not only my grandfather faced, but the Aussies, English, Turkish, New Zealanders, French and Canadians, when they landed on these beaches.
“It is hard to imagine that a beautiful and tranquil landscape was the scene of such a long, brutal and barbaric battle.
“During the Dawn Service our group stood a fair way back behind a sea of people. But, in reality, those in front represented every life tragically lost at Gallipoli.
“There was a sense of sadness, however, as many students didn’t fully understand the monstrosity of what had taken place in this war.”
Kobi said that, being 15, “it could have been me 100 years ago”.
“These young boys signed up for an adventure and took the opportunity to see the world – much the same reason as I applied for this trip. They were faced with the harsh reality of war… ‘To kill or be killed’, to live in appalling conditions and endure extreme terror, fatigue, starvation and illness. I am just grateful that I wasn’t one of those young boys.
“I feel privileged to have taken part in what will, undoubtedly, be one of the biggest memorial events of the 21st century. It was a wonderful opportunity to represent my grandfather, and all the other Anzacs that landed on that beach, and to fully understand and appreciate the horrific sacrifices they made for me.”