A retired GP has driven across Europe to visit the battlefields of Gallipoli in Turkey, where his grandfather served during World War One.
Dick Morgan, from Teignmouth in Devon, made the expedition to Turkey in a Nissan Patrol which he has owned since 2007. The round trip, with stops on the way back, was more than 5,000 miles.
The Patrol has been professionally modified to deal with the hard endurance driving and the most testing of desert terrain.
Dick’s cousin, Tom Morley, travelled from Australia to join the epic adventure which has been a decade in the planning.
The pair’s grandfather, John Morley, was a field surgeon with the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division in the Gallipoli campaign, one of the bloodiest battles of the war.
The Gallipoli Campaign, one of the bloodiest battles of World War One
Fighting began in April 1915 with the aim of securing the desert peninsula on the northern bank of the Dardanelles. The strait provided a sea route to the Russian Empire, one of the Allied powers during World War One.
British and French forces launched a naval attack on the Ottoman Empire followed by amphibious landings supported by Australian and New Zealand (Anzacs) forces. The naval attack was repelled and after eight months’ fighting, the campaign was abandoned and the invasion force withdrew to Egypt.
It was a bloody conflict and Allied Forces suffered huge losses with more than 55,000 killed, 120,000 wounded and a further 7,600 reported missing or taken prisoner.
Losses were no less severe for the Ottomans with 56,643 reported dead, 97,000 injured and 11,000 reported missing or taken prisoner.
Dick’s grandfather survived the war and came home a hero – though he was invalided out with infectious hepatitis as a result of poor water hygiene, something which blighted troops throughout the campaign.
On discharge he was decorated and made a Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur – the highest French honour for military services established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802.
He was awarded for his service to the wounded of a French regiment fighting alongside the Lancashires.
After his vast and hugely trying experience in the field, on returning to Civvy Street he subsequently became Professor of Surgery at Manchester University.
Finding the right cover to travel across Europe to Turkey
With such a personal interest in the Battle of Gallipoli, Dick’s trip of a lifetime was almost scuppered before he turned a wheel.
He couldn’t find a motor insurance policy that offered the right level of cover – most policies are restricted to third party cover for countries outside the EU – that was until he spoke to Herts Insurance Consultants (HIC) of Bishops Stortford.
They steered him towards their annual Green Card policy which provides fully comprehensive cover throughout Europe, including Turkey.
This cover usually appeals to expats, but once HIC had dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s the cousins were set for their journey. And Dick was delighted with the peace of mind insurance cover he secured for the trip.
Andy Morton, from HIC, said: “When we received the call from Dr Morgan it was clear that he was on a personal mission – and it has been a pleasure helping him on this epic and emotional journey.
“This type of insurance is not something that is readily available in the insurance market and we did have to create a new product to fit what is clearly a gap in the market.”
He added: “Following from Dr Morgan’s original call, we have now devised a new product that will enable others to follow their dreams and plan adventures from Serbia/Russia to Turkey and lots of countries in-between.”
After the short Dover-Calais ferry crossing, the pair drove straight to Gallipoli travelling through France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and finally Turkey.
They scheduled three days to view the battle sites and see for the first time where their grandfather worked in the field.
Dick explained: “We booked a very well-known Turkish guide called Kenan Çelik, who has guided Australian Prime Ministers around, to give us a day’s overview.
“Then we had two days to go back to certain places and spent more time reflecting on our grandfather’s actions and what had happened.
“We were delighted to find at Beach Cemetery in the Anzac area the Commonwealth War Graves Commission have used the photo of grandfather on the official information board.”
“I learnt to drive on the desert as soon as I could reach the pedals…”
Dick is no stranger to the rather inhospitable desert terrain.
“I was brought up in Khartoum, Sudan, where my father was Professor of Medicine for 17 years.
“I learnt to drive on the desert as soon as I could reach the pedals and see out at the same time.”
He often accompanied his father when he travelled to remote medical outposts in the provinces and he grew to love the vagaries of desert driving.
After the battlefields of Gallipoli, the pair returned on a more leisurely route taking in Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovakia, Italy, Switzerland, and then home again through France.
With grandfather and father both being accomplished doctors, the medical profession was clearly in the blood. Dick took the Hippocratic Oath and went into general practice in Solihull where he remained for 28 years, but all the while his taste for adventure and journeys into the unknown prevailed.
“In 1996 I set up Expedition Medical Services as a result of Land Rover asking me to provide medical cover for a number of expeditions.
“These included retracing the steps of explorer Wilfred Thesiger’s crossing of the Empty Quarter in Oman, 50 years before.
“Since then I have made many expeditions out to North Africa to Morocco and Western Sahara.”
Initially these were in his faithful 1992 Tdi Range Rover but that was retired in 1997 with 160,000 miles on the clock, but it went to a good home, Dick explained.
“It is now owned by a French Algerian who keeps it in his home village in Algeria, where continuing rust is unlikely to be a problem!”
Modifying the vehicle to handle the testing desert terrain
He replaced the Tdi with the Nissan Patrol which was prepared for expedition use by the 4×4 and off-road specialists at Frogs Island garage in Abingdon.
Frogs Island is legendary and engineers there prepared Ewan McGregor’s support vehicles for the “Long Way Down” TV series chronicling his motorbike trip across Africa.
Since the initial conversion job Dick has added yet more specialist desert survival equipment including a Safari Snorkel, which keeps the air filters clean in desert convoy conditions, and Hi-Lift jacking points welded front and back to the chassis.
Preparation is key to such expeditions and once the insurance, paperwork, legalities and route were sorted out, Dick went about packing a comprehensive set of spares such as replacement belts, air, oil and fuel ﬁlters, diff and gearbox oils, a full set of bulbs and a good toolkit.
He tries to plan for every eventuality and, as one would expect from a retired doctor, the car’s first aid kit is also stocked for most emergencies.
Other essentials for the trip were a “Spot Satellite Messenger”, which is cheaper than a satellite phone but still allows you to get help where there is no mobile phone signal; a Silva compass, which doesn’t need batteries and will works when the GPS breaks down; and safe and clean water courtesy of a Lifeventure Jerry can water treatment system and Aqua Pure personal water bottles.
Dick is married to Julie and has a son, Jonathan who worked in Ankara, Turkey, for four years but has accompanied him on many previous expeditions. Needless to say both are hugely supportive of Dick’s desires to drive far into the unknown.
He is also a keen photographer too so each of his expeditions is chronicled in explicit detail.