Tour group set for Gallipoli history lesson

STUDENTS from all four of Warrnambool’s secondary schools will represent the city at the commemoration for Australia’s best-known military battle.

A group of 24 people — including 13 students — will head to Turkey next month to see the famed Gallipoli peninsula first-hand and pay their respects to the scores of south-west soldiers killed in action nearly a century ago. 

There’s also a more recent connection to Gallipoli. The Warrnambool contingent will meet the former proprietor of the Warrnambool Beach Kiosk on Pertobe Road, Suleyman “Sam” Meric, who retired to his homeland of Turkey several years ago.

More than $32,000 has been raised over several years to subsidise the 16-day trip in a joint effort between Warrnambool RSL, the city’s Legacy and several Rotary clubs.

One of the organisers, Warrnambool RSL committee member Doug Heazlewood, said the group would spend three days in the Gallipoli region and visit a Turkish school to better understand the complexities of the doomed 1915 battle.

The students involved in the tour are all aged between 16 and 18 and were selected for their interest and enthusiasm for military history.

“All 13 students have been very thorough in all the research they have completed prior to leaving for Turkey,” Mr Heazlewood said. 

“Gallipoli will be the main focus but it will be a broader educational experience than just World War I history.

“Turkey is considered part of the cradle of civilisation. There’s more Roman ruins there than Rome, more Greek ruins than Greece. It’ll be fascinating.” 

The students have all been assigned particular Gallipoli soldiers to research before leaving Australia and attended a commemoration in Melbourne in December recognising the withdrawal of Australia from the peninsula 98 years ago.

Warrnambool RSL president John Miles said the group, which also includes chaperones from the four secondary schools, would be fine ambassadors for Australia.

“There’s nothing like going over there and actually seeing it for yourself,” Mr Miles said. 

“You can read all the history in history books but it makes more sense when you’re there in person.”

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