Colin's Caper at Anzac.
This interview took place only a few hours
after Colin Piper, a member of our group had walked (struggled) down Shrapnel Gully from
the top down to Anzac Cove.
Col replied, "I've always been interested in military history and I'm member of the military historical society and it's always been a burning ambition to come to Turkey and see Gallipoli".
You have no family ties or relatives or anything?
Not as far as I know of, no.
And how long have you had this on your mind?
For about 10 - 15 years.
Oh, that's great. And the other day, you like everybody else have been emotionally involved in the whole thing, in particular the dawn parade. Was it your suggestion or was it someone else's suggestion, or what?
No, I wanted to go to a virgin part of the battlefield where tourists don't walk or trucks or where trucks or vehicles can't get on to see what the battlefield was like originally, you know?
Yes, well I envy you a great amount because I would dearly have loved to gone but I know physically I couldn't and then having seen you and everything, I was fully aware that it would have been impossible.
What was the name of the valley you came down? Can you remember it?
Yes, that was Shrapnel Valley and it was one of the main communication trenches or valleys for a lot of other places way up in the hills and it was probably one of the easier valleys to go down because it was straight and direct but by Christ it was rugged.
How far do you think it was? Did anybody give you any distance?
Oh, I would say - close to 3 kilometres.
The sides of it would be at least 45 degrees, weren't they?
Yes, it was steep. When I went down the first 30 feet I had regrets straight away,
Did you feel frightened at all?
Never frightened , just buggered, totally and physically buggered. I carried only a very small pack compared to what they carried, just had a water bottle , my camera and my jumper in it.
You had no fear at getting through?
Yes, a couple of times it was really thick, really, really thick bush and I thought how am I going to get through this?
You have a disability haven't you?
Yes. I have a very, very sore back, you know?
More than a sore back, you've had a major operation on it not so long ago.
Yes, well, it wasn't so much that. It was just sheer bloody - oh, it just tore at you, the bush, it just held you back.
The type of bush was very similar to holly, wasn't it, sharp prickly?
Yes, prickly, hard.
And the stem part of it like box thorn. In fact it could have been box thorn.
It was so thick, the bush, I had to backtrack a couple of times and go up small sharp ridges either side to get around obstacles of really thick bush and where they had cut the old bush down they'd thrown it in great piles . There was no established path. The path was sometimes there, but not often.
What sort of footwear were you wearing?
I had on a pair of riding boots and jeans and a light long sleeved shirt/ I was sweating like a mongrel pig.
You didn't hurt yourself in any way?
No. I fell over a couple of times. That's because you step into what you think is solid ground and there's about a foot space underneath where there's a hole or something. You can find lots of old trenches and deep dugouts but they are very well worn and dug in. Unless you knew what you were looking for, an ordinary person wouldn't spot them.
And you found some remnants of bits and pieces?
A fair few remnants of bully beef tins, food tins and so forth. I found the top off what looked like an ammunition tin.
Most of the tins when I picked them up just fell to pieces. But the tin lid I kept because it had a big heavy solid handle on it. I think that was an ammunition tin. I found a piece of webbing with a button on it, a buckle
And with a brass tip on it?
Yes. and a couple of bits of shrapnel, a bullet that had been hit in the big end of it by another bullet and been blown to pieces. I picked them up and kept them. There's shrapnel everywhere, that was pretty easy to find.
Emotionally, how did it hit you, while you were there? Did it get at you a bit?
Yes, I thought those poor buggers, up this bloody hill against enemy fire with a heavy pack, a hundred rounds of ammunition in heavy coarse woollen uniforms with only a bottle of water and if it was as hot and thirsty as today! I did it going downhill they had their work cut out for them.
The thing that gets me, and it must have got you was the fact that on the first day they landed at 4.30 a.m. and at 4.30 p.m. - 12 hours later - they were at Courtney's Post. Now, the average person, we just couldn't do it, could we?
No. That's just a long trip just walking in relaxed conditions. and these blokes just went ahead running under fire. They must have just pelted up there at a fair rate to get there in that time with that equipment on them. Must have been sheer adrenalin that got them there.
Yes, it's a very vigorous thing. Is there any other feelings that you would like to note.
Yes, I sat down for about 5 minutes in a spot and just listened and you can hear the birds. There's birds everywhere but it's very quiet. The sort of - a bit disturbing, you know and it was good to come and do it.