Australian Defence Force personnel have joined sombre battlefield tours as part of their preparation for Anzac Day in Turkey.

After two days of travelling by plane, bus and ferry from Australia, the excitement from the ADF members was evident as they arrived at the Gallipoli Peninsula.

The excited laughter and banter among the sailors, soldiers and airmen was tempered when confronted with the sheer scale of the loss of life in such a small area along Anzac Cove and the crystal blue Aegean Sea.

“When you hear such high numbers, in their thousands, you don’t comprehend how small the battlegrounds were that they were fighting on until you see it.”

Walking silently down the rows upon rows of headstones of their Anzac forebears, the tour struck a chord as the members read the names of fallen soldiers at the Lone Pine and Chunuk Bair cemeteries.

Warrant Officer Class 1 Michael Bates, Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) of the Anzac contingent, said the tour was an eye opener for many.

“Our tour guide described in detail the amount of effort, manpower and resources that were thrown into the battle with the Turkish Army, only to have countless young men die for only a few metres of ground gained,” Warrant Officer Bates said.

“When you hear such high numbers, in their thousands, you don’t comprehend how small the battlegrounds were that they were fighting on until you see it.”

He said it was heartening to see how sacred the cemeteries and numerous monuments along the Gallipoli peninsula were for all nations that had fought there.

“I was pleased to see how much meticulous and caring work the Turkish Government and Turkish people have put into the restoration of the battlefields and surrounding areas in order to preserve the sites.

“I am immensely humbled to be standing in a place of such significance and importance to Australia. I feel I have reached a pinnacle in my career as an RSM now and feel very privileged to play an important part in these ceremonies.”

The contingent commander, Flight Lieutenant Aaron Collins, said the battlefield tours were also a powerful introduction to the Gallipoli conflict.

“The thing that surprised me the most about visiting the Gallipoli Peninsula for the first time was the amount of Turkish monuments,” Flight Lieutenant Collins said.

“We tend to always hear about the Australian sites such as Anzac Cove and the Lone Pine Cemetery but there were hundreds of tourists visiting the Turkish 57th Regiment Memorial to also pay their respects.  It gave a sense of shared experience.”

The contingent of ADF personnel, comprised primarily of Australia’s Federation Guard and the Royal Australian Air Force Band, arrived in Canakkale, Turkey, on April 19 to represent the Australian Defence Force during Anzac Day ceremonies.