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Peter Trounson View Drop Down
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    Posted: 08 May 2012 at 17:54
Photo of some of the original graves at Beach Cemetery taken in 1915. The original photographs and writeup below can be viewed at the AWM site at :

The following photograph was taken in 1919 showing how the Turks had remodelled the grave sites.

AWM38 3DRL 6673/1015

Early in the campaign, burying Australian soldiers and recording the burials at ANZAC was haphazard, but the situation improved with the establishment of permanent cemeteries and the appointment of Chaplain Walter Dexter to organise the maintenance and recording of the cemeteries.

Dexter supervised the surveyors who made plans of the major cemeteries, Shrapnel Valley, Ari Burnu, the Beach, Brown’s Dip, and Shell Green. Some of the smaller cemeteries were also surveyed, such as at Plugge’s Plateau and Victoria Gully. When it was decided to evacuate ANZAC and Suvla in December 1915, they did not know what would happen to the graves. Before the evacuation, Dexter and his team completed the maintenance and surveying of the cemeteries. Dexter kept the burial records up to date and took the bearings of the isolated graves so that accurate and useful records would exist should they return to Gallipoli.

Graves Registration Unit 1919

After the war the newly established Graves Registration Unit (GRU) arrived at Gallipoli. Their job was to locate graves of allied soldiers and identify their remains, find and bury all unburied remains, record the burials and chart the cemeteries. The Australian representative on the GRU was Lieutenant C. E. Hughes, who had served at Gallipoli in 1915. Using the plans made by Dexter’s team and burial reports, Hughes attempted to locate the graves of the allied dead at ANZAC Cove.

This was made difficult because many cemeteries had vanished from view. After the evacuation many of the wooden crosses were used as firewood and the grass and shrubs grew back, covering the graves. Other cemeteries had been remodelled by the Turks in 1916 after Pope Benedict XV enquired after the state of the cemeteries. When the Turkish War Office discovered the cemeteries had vanished from view, they made mounds, representing graves, and bordered them with stones. These mounds often faced a different direction to the graves underneath. It did make the cemeteries look tidy, and the Pope’s envoy, who inspected the remodelled cemeteries, reported that the Turks were caring for the cemeteries.

Hughes and his team at first used Dexter’s plans to find graves and they assisted in locating the general positions and directions of the graves; however, they found establishing the exact locations of the graves difficult, as the plans had no map bearings. So within a cemetery, they used metal rods, inserting them in the ground. If the rod could be pushed easily into the ground, this meant the area had been dug. In this manner, Hughes’s team was able to determine whether the area was a grave. This method was time-consuming, but through it Hughes and his team found thousands of graves, including isolated ones.

The original of the following photograph at 'The Great War Photos' site can be viewed at :

This 1919 photograph shows quite clearly the problems the burial parties faced.

Edited by Peter Trounson - 08 May 2012 at 18:03
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