• Matt McEachan laying the wreath for the Redlands at Lone Pine
Our Member for Redlands, Matt McEachan, has just returned from an emotional and harrowing pilgrimage to Gallipoli that marked the 100th anniversary of the famous landings.
It was a private and personal effort, following his selection in the ballot system after it was announced earlier in the year.
It had nothing to do with him being a Member of the Queensland Parliament.
It had everything to do with his unique family history.
You see, Matt had two great grandfathers who landed and fought at Gallipoli.
They were his mother’s mother’s father, Reginald Perkins, and his mother’s father’s father, ‘Pa’ Ben Cook.
As young men they fought not only at Gallipoli, but also in France. They were fortunate to survive the experience.
They did not know one another nor were they aware of each other’s unique history until their children were married during the Second World War. They then became firm friends.
With all this family history and knowledge, Matt McEachan wanted desperately to be at Gallipoli this year.
“I found out I had a position in the ballot after I applied personally prior to even being nominated for the seat of Redlands.
“Ironically, I discovered my fortunate selection on the day I received the notification of the electoral commission declaration that i was the next state member for Redlands.”
Matt funded the private journey himself. There was no implication with his parliamentary role, until it was realised that he might be able to represent Redlands at the Gallipoli services.
With this in mind, he approached the RSL and they assisted in supplying him with a wreath to be laid at Gallipoli on behalf of our community.
Then the amazing and harrowing trek became a reality.
With backpack and not much else, he flew to Greece and travelled by bus to Istanbul.
“It was constant and hard. On arrival in Istanbul, I immediately had to adjust my packing for another bus journey to Gallipoli.”
A walk across the bridge connecting Europe with Asia, and Matt got to join his travel group for the rest of the journey.
It was five hours to the peninsular, and a further four hours at a snail’s pace to the main Gallipoli memorial above the famous beaches.
During this entire process that took nearly three days, Matt managed only a few short cat naps - hence the harrowing bit.
“We arrived at about 1am in the morning for the Dawn Service.”
All the emotions were on display.
“It was emotional for just about everyone. I was really affected as the Dawn Light started to appear as a group of warships approached the beaches. It was a haunting and beautiful scene.”
After that experience, it was then up the escarpment and the trail to Lone Pine.
It was here Matt discovered he was made a part of the emotional wreath laying ceremony.
“Lone Pine is special. Under your feet are up to 10,000 brave Australians and Turks are buried in virtually a mass grave.”
After the magnificent service here and some of the stirring speeches, the official wreath laying was carried out.
“I was delighted to be included in the public tier of wreath laying and was extremely proud when my name was called representing the Redlands constituency.”
It became poignant for Matt again when as he was standing ready to lay his wreath from the Redlands, he stood alongside some of the widows of the original Gallipoli Diggers (several married much younger wives later in life).
After it was over and getting a chance to chat and meet with many others on the famous slopes, it was then back to the bus and the return trip to Istanbul. That took a further 13 hours.
Matt had been awake almost continually for nearly three days and utterly exhausted.
“I was speaking to another fellow Australian who was in his 70’s. He described it as the worst and best day of his life.
“Worse because of the travel and the lack of sleep.
“Best because he was able to attend such a special event in the lives of every Australian.
“For me it was a pilgrimage that was a huge honour and life changing in so many ways. I will never forget it and I am so proud for my family that I was able to be there,” Matt McEachan said.
So are we Matt!