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Gallipoli Veteran (light Armoured Brigade) Moves On

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I thought Blake had died a few years ago so it's good to see the old fella is still going strong.


The last survivor of the Gallipoli campaign is looking for a new home 96 years after he was smuggled back to Britain in a soldier’s knapsack.

Blake, a spur-thighed tortoise, was plucked from the slopes of the Dardanelles as the Allies pulled out after the disastrous attempt to capture Istanbul, then known as Constantinople.

Now he is thought to be at least 100 years old and after spending the past 30 years with Marion Skinner he is looking for a new home. Mrs Skinner, 67, acquired him from the soldier’s widow after placing an advert in her local newspaper, looking for tortoises for breeding. She has given up her hobby and Blake is the last of her 20 tortoises.

Mrs Skinner, a retired officer manager from Neatishead, Norfolk, would like Blake to be returned to Gallipoli but recognises that this might not be possible as tortoises are protected animals and international trade in them is banned.

“If there’s anybody in Gallipoli who could take him, that would be perfect,†she said. “He always loved the sunshine and the warmth of the greenhouse so I am certain he would enjoy being back in his natural environment. It would be an incredible ending to his incredible story.â€

Blake is named after the village of Blakeney, to which his original owner returned after the bitter fighting in the Dardanelles. All Mrs Skinner knows about the soldier is that his widow, who gave Blake to her in 1983, was called Mrs Marris and she was not an expert at sexing tortoises.

She said: “Mrs Marris contacted us and said she had a female tortoise she was willing to let us have. We went to her house to collect it and we asked how she knew it was female, and she said she had seen it lay eggs. When she was out of the room we checked and saw it was male and we later found out that another tortoise laid the eggs. While we were there, she told us where the tortoise had come from.â€

Blake is being looked after by a foster carer while the Norfolk Tortoise Club tries to find him a new home. According to the experts, the ideal home would offer him access to a secure sunny garden, with a healthy diet of weeds and wildflowers dusted with calcium. He would need a warm dry shelter during bad weather, such as a greenhouse or utility area with a ultraviolet heat lamp.

Eleanor Tirtasana, rehoming officer at the Norfolk Tortoise Club, said: “Tortoises like Blake can live well in to their hundreds, meaning they often outlive their owners. As a club we are able to help tortoises find new homes where they can thrive with continued support, and look for homes where a tortoise can thrive and not just survive.â€


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