All aboard as cruise companies recruit top brass for Gallipoli tours

The country's most eminent retired  military servicemen are being recruited to lecture on ships during next year's Anzac Day centenary events at Gallipoli.

It's a deft manoeuvre by cruise companies that, along with dozens of travel companies, are  offering an alternative to the more than 30,000 Australians who missed out on balloted tickets to the dawn service at Gallipoli in 2015.

Cruise expert Phil Asker, founder of Captain's Choice, said up to 12,000 people would be floating overseas on chartered passenger ships for the centenary event.

After depositing ticket-holders on shore, some ships will broadcast the service on board, others will hold their own commemorative services, and many will recruit speakers, including former top brass, to honour the events of 1915.

Captain's Choice is employing Admiral Chris Barrie, a former defence force chief, who will bring tales from his 41 years of active service to the 296-guest Silver Wind during the company's 17-day Gallipoli 2015 Cruise. Admiral Barrie will lecture alongside Lieutenant-General Ken Gillespie, a former chief of the army.

Sydney-based company Battlefield Memorial Travel plans to host three Australian historians on the 450-person Saga Sapphire, including Dr Robert Likeman, who served in the Australian Army for 24 years and was the senior medical officer with Australia's stabilisation force in East Timor.

Old-time bands will play while historians will lecture, conduct Q&A sessions and run workshops about the wartime significance of each Mediterranean port the ship visits over 31 days.

Gallipoli-2015's 10-day Epic Gallipoli Cruise, on the 287-guest Azamara Journey, will feature a team of military  experts, including Major-General Jim Molan, who led Australia's contingent in the Iraq war.

Meanwhile, Gallipoli Cruise 2015 will be running lectures on the history of Anzacs and places visited  – including Istanbul, Cairo and Santorini – during a 36-day cruise .

Retired Major-General Mike O'Brien – who served as an infantry officer in Vietnam, and a specialist in logistics management and defence acquisition planning – will speak on board, as will David Horner, a former soldier who is now a professor of Australian defence history at the Australian National University.

APT will have three small ships anchored close to Anzac Cove for the dawn service, including Compagnie du Ponant's 230-person Le Soleal,  which will cruise the Dardanelles Strait and the Gallipoli Peninsula before anchoring near Anzac Cove.

Led by David Howell, the founder of Kokoda Historical, a cast of history enthusiasts will dress up as past soldiers, interacting with guests, reading out their letters and answering questions in character.

Jumping between APT's smaller ships, Island Sky (106 people) and Variety Voyager (66 people), will be a retired RAAF intelligence officer, Squadron Leader Hugh Dolan, and the chairman of the AE2 Commemorative Foundation, Rear-Admiral Peter Briggs, who will speak on board and lead land tours.

This article All aboard as cruise companies recruit top brass for Gallipoli tours was originally published in Brisbane Times.