23 April 2019
Ari Burnu Cemetery lies between Anzac Cove and the Anzac Commemorative Site where the annual Dawn Service occurs on 25 April at Gallipoli.
The Aegean Sea laps at its edge and large spreading oak trees provide shelter to people paying respects at the graves of First World War soldiers.
It is here that Leading Aircraftman James Fuller walks slowly through the headstones, seeking the grave of his relative Private James McKenzie Spence.
Leading Aircraftman Fuller, a Royal New Zealand Air Force drummer, is a member of the New Zealand Defence Force contingent conducting the Anzac Day services at Gallipoli. On 25 April, he will keep the beat as the catafalque parties march into position at the Dawn Service and at the New Zealand National Service at Chunuk Bair later that morning.
Having taken part in commemorative activities in New Zealand, including the Armistice Day Sunset Ceremony at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park, Leading Aircraftman Fuller knows how special this opportunity is.
“I am humbled to have a role in the commemorations here at Gallipoli,” he said.
“Being able to visit the grave of Private Spence means a lot to my family back in New Zealand.”
Private James McKenzie Spence, of Whangarei, served at Gallipoli with the Auckland Infantry Battalion. Before enlisting he was a journalist with the Northern Advocate and those journalistic skills would have aided him when he was appointed a signaller within the battalion.
However, the task of maintaining open communications could be a difficult and dangerous job and he died of a gunshot wound to the head on 16 November, 1915, just a few weeks before the evacuation.
Standing in the peaceful cemetery in the shadow of the impossible hills his relative would have fought on, Leading Aircraftman Fuller placed a poppy on Private Spence’s headstone.
“To walk the battlefields and gain a better understanding of what happened here really hits you emotionally,” he said.