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Surreal experience for Great-Grandson of Gallipoli veteran

The emotions brought up from following in the footsteps of his great-grandfather through the bloodied battlefields of the Gallipoli campaign snuck up on Chief Petty Officer Nicholas Hunter.

28 April, 2022

In Turkey as part of the New Zealand Defence Force Anzac Day 2022 contingent, the Seamanship Combat Specialist struggled to put into words his experience as he paid respect to those who served and lost their lives in World War I. 

“It’s been a privilege to come this far and know that they landed down on that beach somewhere and they came up the ridges that we came up, and the fighting that ensued… it’s surreal. It’s hard to put into words, and all the emotions that go with it,” he said.

Chief Petty Officer Hunter’s great-grandfather, Corporal Victor Eather, was in the Auckland Infantry Regiment and served on the peninsula in June 1915. 

He survived his time at Gallipoli and went on to serve in the Western Front in 1916, before returning back to New Zealand.

Chief Petty Officer Hunter, originally from Rotorua, said it meant a lot to be selected as a site liaison officer for Anzac Day commemorations and it provided him the chance to learn more about what his great-grandfather lived through. 

As part of the contingent’s role in Turkey, battlefield tours are conducted to understand the stories and history of the areas where commemorations take place, and it’s here where Chief Petty Officer Hunter felt the true weight of the meaning behind the commemoration.

“The cemeteries like Hill 60 and 12 Tree Copse are the ones that I got really emotional at. I guess when you see so many headstones that say ‘Believed to be in this site’… it is heart-wrenching, and the loss of life is just staggering, it’s hard to try to comprehend that. It has been a privilege to come and honour that, and pay respect.”

It’s not just Chief Petty Officer Hunter who has been affected by his trip to the Gallipoli peninsula.

In a message sent from home while in Gallipoli, his mother shared how she felt about him following in the footsteps of their family member.

“I feel truly emotional about you being there, not only that you are so far away in these unprecedented times, but that you are treading in the footsteps of our ancestors who did so much to fight for our countries,” she wrote.

“For you in this Defence Force, to honour those fallen, is something you and all of us will never forget.”