Lemnos’ important role in Australia’s Anzac story was again part of the annual commemorations of the Gallipoli campaign held in Greece and Australia.
The events on the Northern Aegean island were organised yet again by the local authorities, both the Northern Aegean Regional Government and the Lemnos Municipality. Secretary of the Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee, Lee Tarlamis OAM, along with many others, took part in the commemorations held on Lemnos on 20 April. Once again hundreds took part, from near and far, the Australian participation led by Andrea Biggi, acting Australian Ambassador to Greece. Other Diplomatic representatives included those from New Zealand, Canada and Pakistan, as well as the Hellenic Parliament, military and religious representatives, along with local community organisations and schools such as the local Red Cross.
The services encompassed wreath laying events at both Portianos and East Mudros Military Cemeteries, as well as a presentation at the Moudros Cultural Centre on the Hellenic air forces on Lemnos and their participation in the First World War.
Mr Tarlamis said that he was particularly proud to take part in the ceremony conducted at the new Australian Pier memorial that was only unveiled last year on the initiative of the Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee, supported by the Victorian Government and local authorities.
“It is great to see the Australia Pier Memorial take its place as part of the annual services on Lemnos. It was our hope to add this location to the recognition of the various sites on the island connected to the Gallipoli campaign. Hopefully this will be the first of many more such historical markers erected on the island with our support,” Mr Tarlamis said.
During his time on Lemnos, Mr Tarlamis held discussions with local authorities on the way forward in the development of Lemnos’ Gallipoli Heritage Trail and pledged the Committee’s support for its creation.
In Melbourne, the Oakleigh-Carnegie RSL made Lemnos the feature of its annual Anzac Day service with the unveiling of a beautifully framed copy of one of the most iconic photographs from the island’s role in Gallipoli. Local Federal MP for Hotham, Clare O’Neil has gifted the photograph to the RSL. At estimated 1,500 people took part in the RSL’s Dawn Service conducted at the cenotaph in Drummond Street, Oakleigh. It was my honour to lay a wreath during this service on behalf of the Committee.
The photograph depicts the arrival of Australian nurses of the 3rd Australian General Hospital at Lemnos led by Matron Grace Wilson in August 1915. It shows them lined up on the shores of Mudros Bay, with the hospitals’ Scottish bagpiper, Warrant Officer Archibald Monk, a migrant from the island of Benbecula about to march into the hospital site. The photograph was taken by the hospital’s photographer Albert Savage and is held by the State Library of NSW.
The nurses played an important part in Lemnos’ Anzac story, providing essential medical care throughout the remainder of the campaign, almost overwhelmed by wounded and sick soldiers from Gallipoli, and achieving a remarkable recovery rate. Many diggers joined with senior Australian military medical authorities in praising the steadfastness and service of the nurses.
In recognition of Piper Monk’s part in the march of the nurses on Lemnos, the presentation ceremony was accompanied by the playing of the RSL’s resident bagpiper and two young women resplendently dressed as our own ‘Lemnos Nurses’.
In unveiling the photograph, Ms O’Neil talked of her admiration for the nurses who served on Lemnos. She was glad that the role of women in the Anzac story is increasingly being acknowledged.
“These young women travelled across the world to serve the sick and wounded from the battlefields of Gallipoli and beyond. From the moment they came ashore, they were faced with hundreds of wounded. They worked in tents, exposed to winter storms and summer heat. And despite being exhausted from their toil, they provided essential care to the diggers,” Ms O’Neil said.
She added that it was particularly appropriate that this photograph should be displayed in this particular RSL, given the local Greek Australian community, demonstrating as it does the connection between Greece and Australia through Anzac.
Oakliegh-Carnegie RSL President Douglas Pendergast said it was an honour to receive this photograph and it would take its place alongside the RSL’s treasured displays. He spoke of Private William Withers, a digger with local connections, who is buried on Lemnos and whose name is recorded on the RSL’s historic Roll of Honour Board.
“The Lemnos Nurses photograph will join our existing photograph of the diggers and evzones on the Acropolis from March 1941 that was gifted to the RSL by our local Oakleigh State MP Mr Steve Dimopoulos last year. Together these photographs demonstrate the Hellenic link to Anzac across both World Wars. This is an important part of our local and national history and we are proud to play a small part in keeping the memory of this service alive in our local community,” Mr Pendergast said.
The presentation was accompanied by the unveiling of the RSL’s new Memorial Hall mural, funded through the Federal Centenary of Armistice grant program, which depicts the men and women who have served Australia across many wars, conflicts and peace-keeping operations.
It was my pleasure to assist Ms O’Neil in putting together this important commemorative gift for the Oakleigh-Carnegie RSL.
Meanwhile, Lemnos also featured in Brisbane’s Anzac Day parade, with local nurse Helen Zahos making her own contribution to the march to raise awareness of the role of the Australian nurses on the Island during WWI. As a proud Greek Australian, Ms Zahos took part in the march in honour of the nurses and said that as Matron Grace Wilson was a local Brisbane girl, it was important that her legacy and that of her fellow nurses not be forgotten, including in her home town.
*Jim Claven is a historian, freelance writer and Secretary of the Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee. Later this year Jim’s forthcoming book ‘Lemnos and Gallipoli Revealed’ will be published by the Committee, recounting Lemnos’ role with the photographs and words of the Anzacs themselves. Contact Mr Claven for further information via email: firstname.lastname@example.org