This year will see the unveiling of three new exciting additions to Greece’s Anzac commemorative trail – from the northern Aegean island of Lemnos to Pylos and Methone in the Peloponnese.
A key feature of this year’s annual Gallipoli campaign commemorations held on Lemnos will be the erection of a new memorial at the site of the Australian Pier. The pier was built by Australian soldiers in March 1915 as they began the transformation of the island into the advance base for the campaign.
I have been researching the Anzac trail in Greece for many years, and recently discovered the story of the Australian Pier and its continued existence on Lemnos.
The Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee was successful in gaining the support of the Victorian Government and the authorities on Lemnos for the restoration of the name of the Australian Pier and the erection of a memorial at the site.
Lee Tarlamis said that it would be a proud moment for him to take part in the unveiling of this memorial on 20 April this year.
“Our committee has worked tirelessly to build awareness of the role of Lemnos in Australia’s Anzac story. The erection of this memorial has been a major objective of ours for the last year or so and it will be an honour to take part in its unveiling. And on a personal level – as someone with both Lemnian and Anzac heritage – this will be an added honour,” he said.
Committee vice-president Christina Despoteris, also of Lemnian heritage, is to be commended for her essential work in liaising with local authorities on Lemnos to help bring this to a reality.
On 6 May two new memorials will be installed at Pylos and Methone in the Peloponnese. These memorials will commemorate two POW tragedies that occurred off the coast of Greece during WWII. The Italian troopships Nino Bixio and Sebastiano Veniero-Jason were carrying Allied POWs en-route to camps in Italy. The memorials honour those who died, those who survived, and the locals who helped them.
One of the survivors was Melbourne veteran ‘sapper’ Bill Rudd OAM, who recently celebrated his 100th birthday. It has been a dream of Bill’s to have these memorials erected.
Last year the Pylos-Methone Memorial Organising Committee was quickly formed. I designed the plaques and soon Melbourne’s Pammessinan Brotherhood “Papaflessas” and Panpyliaki Brotherhood ‘Navarino’ joined Bill to fund their production. The plaques were unveiled at Oakleigh’s Vanilla Restaurant in the presence of Bill in December prior to their transportation to Pylos by George Iliopoulos of the organising committee.
The installation of the plaques and the associated commemorative events will be conducted by the municipality of Pylos-Nestor. The plaques will be installed at the existing Hellenic War Memorials at Pylos and Methone.
Assisted by Paul Sougleris, I have recorded a congratulatory video message from Bill that will be played at the unveiling ceremony at Pylos.
I congratulated the municipality of Pylos-Nestor and its mayor Dimitris Kafantaris for recognising the significance of the project and taking action to see that it comes to reality. I also thanked Eleni Kazana of the municipality’s Communications and Protocol Office for her active assistance with the project.
I am proud of how quickly two of Melbourne’s Greek Australian community organisations, and especially George Saratsiotis and Paul Sougleris, came together to help Bill commemorate his comrades.
It is a great credit to both these organisations and the individuals involved that they have supported this initiative. It acknowledges the role of the Anzacs in Greece as well as the importance of ensuring that Australia’s Hellenic connection through Anzac is not forgotten.
While in Greece I will also conduct further field research into some of the key sites connected to the Anzac legacy in Greece. Working with Melbourne’s Pankorinthian and Panargoliki community associations, I will visit the Corinth battlefield of April 1941 and the POW campsite, as well as the Australian nurses ‘hideout’ in Argos, and the Tolos and Nafplio evacuation sites.
I will meet with local government representatives and researchers to investigate how the Anzac heritage connected to these locations can be commemorated.
These sites have a rich Anzac heritage involving both major engagements such as the defence of the Corinth canal but also poignant moments as the Australian nurses made the dangerous withdrawal through Argos to Nafplio. Many Australians may be unaware that one of Australia’s most famous WWII army surgeons, Colonel Sir Ernest Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop AC, CMG, OBE, took part in the Greek campaign, his trail leading across Corinth and the Argolid to Nafplio. This heritage should be remembered.
Melbourne’s Pankorinthian and Panargoliki associations are committed to ensuring the Anzac trail across the region is commemorated. They have come together to work to have erected new memorials on these important sites.
I will also revisit some of the key sites in northern Greece connected to the Australian involvement in the Greek campaign in April 1941. Amongst other locations, I will retrace the battlefields of Vevi and Servia where the Australians fought alongside their Allies in defence of Greece against the German invasion.
These new memorials will take their place alongside other Anzac and Allied memorials across Greece – from the military cemeteries on Lemnos, at Thessaloniki, Athens and Suda Bay, to the memorials for the Battles of Vevi, Brallos Pass, and Kalamata and the many across Crete, including the Battle of 42nd Street Memorial unveiled in 2016 and supported by Melbourne’s Cretan community.
I hope that these new commemorative works will take their place in an emerging Anzac trail across Greece, and will give encouragement to other projects to commemorate further sites of significance.
The Greek mainland has a strong Anzac heritage across both World Wars and these locations should be identified and marked by appropriate commemorative markers or memorials. We owe it to those who served as well as to aid their descendents on their pilgrimages.
I will take part in the annual commemorations for the Gallipoli campaign on Lemnos (20 April), for Anzac Day at Phaleron in Athens (25 April), and for the 77th anniversary of the Greek campaign of 1941 at Kalamata (8 May). I will do so as part of a delegation from Melbourne’s Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee, which will include Deb Stewart, the granddaughter of Australian nursing sister Evelyn Hutt, who served on Lemnos in 1915.
I welcome all who may be in Greece at the time of these events to join him in attending them.
I acknowledge the work of others in raising awareness of the Pylos and Methone tragedies, in particular the late Brian Simms (the son of William Simms, a British soldier who died on the Sebastiano Veniero-Jason) and his grandson Adam McHugh, Rhonda Cousens and Peter Georgopoulos, and, of course, Australian veteran Bill Rudd.