An estimated 10,000 people are expected to attend the official ANZAC Day 100 year anniversary ceremonies taking place at Gallipoli this year with many of those present there to remember a loved one lost or who took part in the fierce fighting.
Among them will be very proud Wangaratta local and MTA – Mobile Travel Agents Member, Nicci Bettles who is making the pilgrimage of a lifetime with her father Brian ‘Bluey’ Bettles to honour the nine members of the Bettles family and two other relatives who fought at Gallipoli at various stages of that campaign.
Nicci’s great grandfather, Randolph, his four brothers and four cousins were all heavily involved in the Gallipoli and French campaigns.
And while eight of the family group made it through Gallipoli, sadly 21-year-old Billy (Howard William) Bettles was killed on 25 April at the start of the ill-fated campaign and is one of hundreds of ANZACs laid to rest at Lone Pine.
Following on from the special ANZAC Day celebrations and a visit to the Lone Pine cemetery, Nicci and her father will be travelling to France where they will also visit the graves of the four ‘Bettles Boys’ killed in action there – Hedley Farquahson Bettles who died at Bussy, Charles Leslie Bettles buried at Serre, Roy Scott Bettles and Albert John Bettles who are both buried at Villers-Bretonneux.
Nicci has been to Gallipoli in the past and has also sent many of her MTA clients to the famous site over the years.
But this visit, she said, and travelling there with her father, will make it a doubly emotional experience.
“While many of those young Australians and New Zealanders who travelled to Gallipoli had brothers, cousins and friends with them, it is extremely rare to have 12 members of the same family fighting in the same campaigns,” Nicci said.
“That’s what makes what my grandfather, his brothers and their cousins did together so special, we are very proud of them of all and I am sure the people of Wangaratta will be too when they learn the story.”
Nicci has recently discovered a treasure trove of documents and photographs dating back to the ‘Bettles Boys’’ WW1 history, all of which she intends donating to the Australian War Memorial.
She is also planning to write a book telling the ‘Bettles Boys’’ story.