Gallipoli trip far tougher for troops

Walking in her ancestors' footsteps

MICHELE ONG
Last updated 05:00 04/04/2014
WAR STORIES:  Janet Johnson, of Waitara, has been selected to attend the Gallipoli 2015 commemorations. Johnson is pictured with grand-daughter Sophie Kate Wills.

WAR STORIES: Janet Johnson, of Waitara, has been selected to attend the Gallipoli 2015 commemorations. Johnson is pictured with grand-daughter Sophie Kate Wills.

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Janet Johnson will be walking in the footsteps of her ancestors at next year's Anzac Day commemorations.

The Waitara woman has been selected for a double pass from the New Zealand Gallipoli 2015 ballot box and will join 2000 New Zealanders in commemorating the centenary of the Anzac landings on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey.

A total of 950 double passes were issued, with 100 special passes held back from the ballot to be issued to youth and other representatives later.

The war in Gallipoli claimed the lives of more than 8500 Australian and 2721 New Zealand soldiers.

Both Johnson's grandfather and father were veterans. The trip to Gallipoli allows her a glimpse of what the New Zealand troops endured.

Johnson's grandfather Frank William Squire Ellis missed out on the Gallipoli assignment as he was a year shy of the eligible age to sign up for the war effort.

"He turned 20 in 1916 so he missed out on the Gallipoli time," Johnson said.

But he joined up the moment he turned 20 and served with the 21st Regiment New Zealand Medical Corps in World War I.

Her father Allan Squire Ellis was a private with the 32nd New Zealand Battalion Expeditionary Force in the Middle East and Italy during World War II.

Although Allan did not speak much about the war, Johnson was taught to be proud of the Anzacs and respect the soldiers' sacrifices.

Johnson had recently discovered a box of letters, diaries and photo albums that belonged to the two men.

"Interestingly enough, they both turned 21 overseas, they both talked in their diaries about their sweethearts and both had plans to marry them when they came home," Johnson said.

Johnson said going to Gallipoli was something she and her husband Garry had thought of doing a few years ago.

"Then I saw the ballot come up last year and popped my name down," she said. "I had actually forgotten about it until I saw my email to say I was successful."

The diaries revealed that the men had a "pretty hard time, but they had also some bloody good times too," Johnson said.

The trip to Gallipoli would require serious planning.

"It's physically demanding. Long hours, hard walking of up to 8km, possibilities of extreme temperatures and weather conditions without cover," Johnson said.

"But it will be nothing compared to what those young men faced in 1915 in their eight-month slog, if they survived."

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