We first learned about William Edmund Hartland in 1993 when his nephew. John Brinkler, inherited old photographs, newspaper clippings, letters and assorted family records.
Photographed in military uniform, the handsome Edmund caught our attention at once. We discovered amongst various military paraphernalia, a signed memo of gratitude from Buckingham Palace, a Certificate awarded for Service in the New Zealand Expeditionary Forces and medals; official records of a life cut short on 25th April 1915, but it was his own words which touched us.
Postcards home with hasty scrawled messages from Hobart, Colombo, Alexandria and Cairo chart his journey to war. Always to his mother or siblings, from Zeitoun Camp in Egyp, where the Auckland Infantry Battalion was stationed, his letters were initially excited about the new and strange land around him. As time passed, he wrote about boredom, frustration, worry about the sickness of his mates, and much conjecture as to when they would 'fight the Turks'.
The last and most poignant letter, written to his mother, is dated 20th March 1915.
He writes - “All rumours and tales promising that we were to leave Egypt have so far proved untrue. We are still hopeful of a shift to a better climate. It is very little use to try and make a guess as to where we will end up.”
He signs as usual, “your loving son, W.E. Hartland”
Every mature New Zealander knows where they were sent. Through contact with the Auckland War Memorial we learned that Edmund Hartland has no known grave. His name is one of the many on the Lone Pine Memorial at Gallipoli, and we resolved to visit there one day.
So in October 2007 we finally arrived in Turkey.
Day one of a Turkish tour we set out with an assortment of nationalities for the Gallipoli Peninsula. A long drive, a roll call of names on board the bus, and surprise......amongst fellow travellers....John and Cath Robinson of Pukekohe, New Zealand, a family linked by marriage to Hartlands! Edmund Hartland had grown up in Pukekohe.
So John Brinkler and John Robinson met for the first time on a bus to Gallipoli and after a hasty geneology check, agreed they had a mutual grandfather some generations back. That they had a relative killed on Gallipoli was news to the Robinsons. Their visit just became more meaningful.
At Anzac Cove, the beautiful day and peaceful aspect made it hard to imagine the carnage there years ago. The only tourists present, our party wandered freely amongst the many white crosses. quietly reading the names of those buried in the lovingly tended cemetery by the sea.
Then it was into the bus and up the hill on the narrow road to Chunik Bair. More white crosses, and standing proud, the Lone Pine Memorial, just as we had pictured it.
Reading Ed's name in the stone, we felt a strangeness after so many years of anticipation. We felt we knew this man and wondered if we were the first from his family to come there. We believe that we were. Photographs were taken to record a visit of not one, but two, kinsmen.
We left that quiet solemn place to walk further along, joining a group of Turkish school children as they visited the monument honouring Kemal Ataturk and the Turkish dead.
We kept our thoughts to ourselves, pondering on that curious coincidence that brought our families together that day to that lonely monument on those bush-clad hills of Turkey.
With special thanks to E. Brinkler for submitting this BlogWould you like to submit a blog to YellAli? Send us your blog to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will review and publish your work.