On Monday 27 May some of the last surviving Australian veterans of the Greek campaign will each be presented the ‘Greek Medal of Honour 1940-1941’, in recognition of their courageous service in fighting alongside Greece in the darkest days of WWII.
The medal ceremony will be hosted by Eleni Lianidou, Greek Consul General to Victoria, at the Greek consulate headquarters in central Melbourne.
Deputy Chief of the Defence Force of Greece, Vice Admiral Mr Alexandros Theodosiou, will present medals to Victorian veterans Mr Maxwell Alex White, aged 93, and Mr Leslie Manning, who turned 100 last month.
The Greek Army chief will also present medals to the families of Lenard William Thomas Beal, Davy Howard Bertram, Swan Bramwell, Ernest Allen, Bridges, Alan Dyer Campbell, Arthur Charles Ford and Ronald Valentine Magetts.
The WWII Allied campaign in Greece began on 5 April 1941 when German troops invaded. Allied forces were mainly made up of Australian and New Zealand divisions.
Outgunned by Hitler’s Panzer army and with little air support the Greek campaign lasted just over three weeks and turned into a rout, before more than 50,000 Allied troops were evacuated from the mainland.
They left behind 320 dead Australians and a further 2,065 became prisoners of war. More than 290 New Zealanders were killed and over 1,600 captured.
Following defeat on the mainland, the Battle of Crete began on 20 May 1941 when over 9,500 German airborne troops landed on the island and again, despite heroic resistance, was concluded ten days later with the Allied surrender.
In the Battle of Crete, Australian, British and New Zealand troops fought gallantly alongside their Cretan allies. During ten days of fighting, 781 Anzac troops were killed and more than 3000 captured.
In total, British Commonwealth forces lost 1,742 men killed and 2,225 wounded. More than 11,000 were taken prisoner. The Royal Navy lost nine ships during the battle for Greece and Crete and over 2,000 sailors lost their lives.
In commemoration of the 72nd anniversary of the Battle of Greece and Crete the following events will be taking place in Melbourne this weekend:
Saturday May 25,
8.00 pm Dance at the Cretan Brotherhood centre, 148 Nicholson Street, East Brunswick.
Sunday May 26,
10.00 am Church Service, Saint Esthathios Cathedral, 221 Dorcas Street, South Melbourne.
1.00 pm Parade at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance
2.00 pm Wreath-laying ceremony at the Australian Hellenic War Memorial, cnr Birdwood and Anzac Avenue. The ceremony will be followed by a lunch in honour of visiting representatives of the Greek Army at the Cretan Brotherhood centre.