War through Hellenic eyes
Ex-warrant officer Peter Adamis shares with us his personal account of what it’s like to be a Greek Australian soldier fighting for your country and what the spirit of ANZAC means to him
Steve Kyritsis to the best of my knowledge is the only known author to have dug a little further into a fertile, virgin uncultivated soil of academia to delve on the subject of Australians of Hellenic heritage, service during the Vietnam War. His book is a compilation of a number of Hellenic Australians who served in Vietnam in one capacity or another. It is of relevance to note that when Steve Kyritsis was collecting material for his book; he found that many of those who had served, were reluctant to discuss their experiences other than to provide a brief summary of their time.
I am also led to believe that with the success of his first book, Steve Kyritsis is currently working on writing another book, bridging the gap between where Hugh Gilchrist left off and that of the Vietnam War.
In 1992 during a function held by the 39 Niners (located at the top end of Russel Street, Melbourne) in conjunction with the Hellenic RSL sub branch Bruce Ruxton advised his audience that presently there were approximately 280 to 300 Australians of Hellenic heritage serving in all three services within the Australian Armed Forces.
It is somewhat of a pity to find that there is insufficient material on Australians of Hellenic origins who have worn the uniform of Australian. One hopes that future generations become conscious of the absence of material on Australians of Hellenic origins and make inroads in what may prove an interesting topic worth pursuing. With due respect to our indigenous brothers, one may ask, why should Australians of Hellenic origins be any different to all other Australians whose ancestors came from another part of the world?
In 1992 while I was still a serving as a Warrant officer of the 5/6th Royal Victoria Regiment, I was asked to give an oral history of Australians of Hellenic heritage serving in the Australian Defence Force to an audience that comprised a wide section of the community. (My mate Bruce Ruxton amongst many other guest speakers was also in attendance).
On a side note regarding Bruce Ruxton, for all his faults that others may think he had, I for one always found him to a huge supporter of the Hellenic people and the Australian Hellenic Community loved and revered him. During the oral lectures I came across other members like myself who had served in WW2 and had the same Hellenic heritage as myself.
Even though I had been spared the horrors of war, I felt somehow strangely at home amongst these warriors of old and no longer felt alone and isolated after having met others of my own ilk. I also had the pleasure of meeting with Alex Jackomos, a fine man who had married a beautiful Aboriginal lass many years ago and we swapped stories together.Alas Alex has since departed and left for a heavenly paradise. I had the pleasure of meeting with his wife when I was employed as the Operations manager for the Welfare arm of Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia in Northcote and I must admit it was an emotional one for me.
One lecture that caught my attention was an elderly gentleman talking about a RAAF airman (Gunner) who was shot down over Europe and that he had landed in a minefield. This airman Constantine George had held his mothers wooden cross to his chest and put his faith in his God and walked unscathed across the mine field. The interest to me was that this same man was my Brother Phillip’s father in law who had served as an air gunner over the skies of Europe.
Suffice to say, my own contribution to the oral history began by stating that “There are no Greeks serving in the Australian Defence Force”. I chuckle to myself when I look back as it was supposed to create a stir and get my audience’s attention. I then followed it up with “The reason being is that we are all Australians and yes there are Australians of Hellenic heritage serving in the Australian Armed forces this day”. This explanation went down well with all the audience, but I still could not stifle a chuckle within myself.
In 2003, my wife and I travelled to Canberra for a conference on government welfare programs. Whilst we were there, we made a lengthy stop at the War Memorial which we both wanted to see. On entering my wife and I were overawed by what we encountered and we stayed longer than we had intended. I took numerous photographs of the displays, panoramas, various weapons and equipment on display in order that I create an album for the Veterans website. (I am ashamed and embarrassed to say that the project is still in the pipeline.) My wife knew that I loved Australian history and let me loose within the great halls of the War Memorial until my absence became a concern and she had to drag me out of the War Memorial. It is important to note that whilst were in Canberra the USA and its allies (Australia as well) had come to grips with the corrupt government of Iraq and the war was in full swing.
I am not one to normally record my service, but I am merely pointing out the various units that I served with to provide an in depth understanding of my exposure to the Australian environment and how I embraced the Australian personality and character without losing my personal identity. I have worn the uniform of Australia, my adopted country for 30 years; having served with the following units of which are in random order beginning with: 3 Base workshop Battalion, I Recruit Training Battalion, Infantry Centre Ingleburne, 1st Battalion the Royal Australian Regiment, Tropical Trials Establishment, The 6th Royal Australian Regiment, Central Army Records Office, 11 Independent Rifle Company, Royal West Australian Regiment, Soldier Career Management Agency, Deakin University Company, 2nd Royal Victoria Regiment, 8/7 Royal Victoria Regiment, 3rd Army Recruiting Unit, Army History Unit, Australian Defence Force Recruiting Unit, 5/6th Battalion The Royal Victoria Regiment and Army Personnel Agency Melbourne
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