The story of the Hellenic connection to Australia just gets deeper. Next month will see the Imvrians’ Society of Melbourne launch a new exhibition telling the amazing story of their Island was involved in the Gallipoli campaign and the Anzacs. The exhibition will be launched on June 2 at the Parkdale Greek Orthodox Church Community Hall.

The project has been underway for over a year, with the Society receiving funding support from the Victorian Government, Victorian Veterans Council and the City of Kingston, along with other organisations and individuals.

The exhibition will be formally launched by Lee Tarlamis OAM MP on behalf of the Victorian Government. A number of dignitaries are anticipated to be in attendance. The exhibition has been curated by Melbourne historian Jim Claven who has been researching the role of Imbros in the campaign for over eight years.

A view of part of the Allied camp at Kephalos Bay, Imbros, 1915. Courtesy Australian War Memorial. Photo: Jim Claven

Claven pointed out that his research reveals that Imbros (now Gokceada, Turkey) played a significant but little appreciated role in the campaign of 1915-16. Its Kephalos Bay, being the closest harbour to Anzac Cove, was the rendezvous point for the landings on 25th April and a major harbour throughout the campaign.

Imbros was a key transit point for Australian and Allied troops being shipped to and from the Peninsula. It was a major base for Allied air units, with aeroplanes, kite-balloons ships and a large hydrogen filled airship based there. It also served this purpose for many wounded and sick soldiers, some of whom were treated in the field medical units based there. Those who came to Imbros were subjected to enemy attack, by enemy bombardment as well as the threat posed by naval attack as Allied ships came and went from the island’s anchorage.

He explains in the exhibition that a number of Australian military units were based on Imbros such as the 1st Australian Field Bakery that supplied fresh bread to the diggers on the peninsula, transported by the wagons of the Australian Army Service Corps. The 1st Australian Field Artillery Battery was also based here temporarily.

Famous formations such as the Royal Australian Naval Bridging Train was also present on Imbros. Australian troops formed a guard for the Allied Headquarters on Imbros and important Australian figures came there, including Colonel John Monash.

Claven said that some of the most poignant images are those depicting the interaction of the soldiers with the local Greek community, such as that taken Australian Private John David Rogers of the 6th Battalion in January 1916 depicting Australian soldiers dancing with local children in an unidentified village on Imbros.

“My research reveals that Australian and other Allied soldiers met locals on the shore or at their camps, partook of its produce, roamed the Island, visiting its villages and churches, stayed in their local inns and relaxed in its natural environment, enjoying a respite from the horrors of war. As on Lemnos, this created an important cultural connection between the Islands overwhelmingly Hellenic population and these young soldiers, a number of them Australian”, Claven said.

The exhibition itself consists of a series of large panels, arranged around the key themes of the role of Imbros in the campaign, displaying archival photographs of Imbros taken by Australians and other Allied service personnel during the campaign, placed in context with text explaining the key aspects of Imbros’ role in the Gallipoli story.

Australia’s official war correspondent during the Gallipoli campaign, Charles Bean (foreground), accompanied by the British correspondent Ashmead-Barlett (rear), photographed on Imbros travelling by donkey, assisted by their local handlers, on Imbros 1915-16. Photographer Malcom Ross. Courtesy Australian War Memorial. Photo: Jim Claven

The exhibition also displays some of the many artworks depicting the Island and its role in the campaign produced on Imbros by Allied soldiers. The exhibition concludes with the reproduction of Claven’s own photographs of many of the same scenes today, taken during his field research trips to Imbros.

Original maps have also been created, drawing on archival maps from the campaign held in the National Archives in London and Claven’s historical research. Layed out by George Xinos, these enable the viewer to easily locate the sites referred to in the exhibition panels.

Claven has selected some of the most important of these archival photographs, curated them for the exhibition through a series of themes, accompanied by text drawing on his extensive historical research explaining the story of each theme and the context for the photographs.

Claven said that his archival research has uncovered many photographs from the time, taken by Australian and other Allied service personnel which vividly bring to life this story from Imbros’ past.

The castle remains above the village of Kalekoy – formerly known as Castro – with Samothrace in the background. This location was visited and photographed by Australian and other Allied soldiers during the Gallipoli campaign of 1915-16. Photo: Jim Claven

“It was seeing many of these images for the first time a few years ago that sparked my desire to conduct field research on the Island, which I was able to undertake in 2015, during the Centenary of Anzac”, Claven said.

He added that like the story of Lemnos’ connection to Anzac, the scenes and vistas of Imbros in some respects have remained the same and almost appear to communicate with the commemorative viewer over the decades. Many of the sites on Imbros connected to the Anzacs and the broader Gallipoli story have been untouched by the passage of time. Xinos said that the launch is only the beginning for the project, with hopes that the exhibition will go on to be displayed at other Victorian venues and throughout Australia, as well as overseas, hopefully on Imbros itself.

“The aim of this project is raise awareness and to begin a conversation on how we can appropriately remember and commemorate this important part of the Island and Australia’s history. As Mr Claven has informed us, every year tens of thousands of Australians visit the battlefields and graves on the Gallipoli Peninsula. We want to work to promote and help create a Gallipoli Heritage Trail on Imbros, emulating that recently begun on Lemnos, to encourage new visitors to Imbros,” Xinos said.

The Imvrians’ Society of Melbourne is a community group of descendants and friends of the island of Imbros. The organization was formed in 1970 and is located in Mentone.

A local Greek Orthodox priest visiting the Allied camp at Kephalos on Imbros, 1915-16. Photographer Petty Officer Bill Pollard. Courtesy William Pollard/Cross & Cockade Archive. Photo: Jim Claven

Xinos pointed out that recent years have seen a resurgence of Greek community life on Imbros, with the permanent population growing from200 a few years ago to now approaching 600. Primary and Secondary Schools have been established, catering for the local Greek community children. These developments have been supported by the local authorities and the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate – many will be aware that the Patriarch Bartholomew is also a native of the Island.

Claven welcomes the Imvrian Society’s foresight in supporting this project. He also thanks the First World War Aviation Society in the United Kingdom for its generosity in allowing the reproduction of many photographs from its collection. He also places on record his thanks to Mr David Sanderson of the Brotherhood of Greek Campaign Veterans in the United Kingdom for his assistance in accessing the original campaign maps of Imbros held by the National Archives in London.The exhibition will be launched at 7pm on the June 2 at the Parkdale Greek Orthodox Church Community Hall, 56-58 The Corso, Parkdale. Contact Mr George Xinos, the Imvrian Society’s project coordinator via email or reserve their place via Trybooking (