What Links Qantas 747-400 Crew to Gallipoli (Except Passengers)?

5th Apr 2015

In less than three weeks, a Qantas 747-400 will fly from Sydney to Istanbul carrying veterans of Gallipoli, their relatives and descendants who have won government ballot tickets to attend the battlefield commemorations for the 100-year anniversary of this battle.

But the passengers will not be the only ones on that plane who have links with Gallipoli.

The crew, including the First and Second officer and several flight attendants have ties to original soldiers.

First officer Stephen Last?s grandfather, Robert Valentine Fell enlisted some three months after the landings. He first served in the 2nd Light Horse Brigade and then in the 10th Light Horse following the retreat from Gallipoli. He also served in both Palestinian and Syrian campaigns as a dispatch rider and has written an essay on the Battle of Beersheba, of which he was a part.

Second officer Peter Tait?s great uncle Herbert Harkins joined the army when he was 19. Harkins pretended to be his 22-year old brother to get in. On April 25th, he landed at Gallipoli as a part of the 15th Battalion, but was shot at Quinn?s Post during a Turkish counteroffensive on May 29th. Following this, Harkins was sent back to Cairo, only to return to Gallipoli as soon he was well. He was shot a second time in August. Harkins finally went to the Western Front, where he was shot a third time. He survived that shooting as well.

Business First flight attendants Hale Spohr and Dogan Irmak said their grandfather Saraf served in Gallipoli as well.

Here?s what Spohr has to say:

?Who would have known 100 years down the track that the two Turks could be representing Qantas, representing Australia and going back to Gallipoli.?

For Irmak, the journey raises many partisan emotions:

?Firstly because we are of Turkish origin and secondly because we are also Australian. We have a very unique connection to Gallipoli.?

According to the Business First attendant, Geoff Sanders, his uncle, Herbert Burdett Sanders was among the first to land at Gallipoli on April 25th with the 2nd Battalion C Company. He survived the battlefield, but had to return to England due to dysentery. He later re-joined the army on the Western Front, but was killed at Poizeres. He was 19 at the time.

Another Business First attendant, Tineka Solomon, whose great-grandfather, Henry George Nield was also at Gallipoli said:

?It will be of great significance for my family. He did survive the war; he got gassed and sent to London.?

Finally, George Stanley McDowell landed on April 25th at Gallipoli, where he was injured twice. He was later sent to the Western Front and was awarded the Military Cross for his services. His granddaughter Meredith McDowell-Jones will be a Business First attendant on this flight.