I was moved to tears watching the brilliant documentary that aired on SBS television last week ANZAC – Lemnos 1915.

My family settled in South Melbourne when we migrated to Australian and two years later, we moved to Albert Park where I still live and work. On our first day in Australia, my father, who had arrived in Australia in 1952 on the ill-fated Corsica 4 years earlier, took us all to the Shrine of Remembrance and the nearby Botanical Gardens. This was a short walk from where we lived and not only free entertainment, but educational.

I attended Dorcas Street Primary School for two years. This school was also literally a hop step and jump to the Shrine. Every year, on ANZAC Day our classes walked to the Shrine of Remembrance and placed a wreath for the fallen soldiers. A lot of us, including me , also attended the Dawn Service and laid wreaths made by the students.

We then moved to Albert Park, and I attended the Albert Park Primary School where we continued to attend the Shrine on ANZAC Day but taken there by a school bus. The Shine and Botanical Gardens remain my favourite parts of beautiful Melbourne. High school at The MacRobertson Girls’ High School was literally across the road from the Shrine with more Dawn Services and attendance was compulsory.

Although ANZAC Day was instilled on me in primary school, I did not take a lot of interest in the history of war until I started organising the Greek/Australian International Legal & Medical conferences in Greece which I ran for more than 30 years.

This all changed at our Seventh Conference held in in 1997 in Thessaloniki. I have since taken a lot of interest in our war history and in recognising the efforts made by those who fought for our freedom and human rights and made the world a safer place for us.

At our Thessaloniki Conference, George Hampel QC a Victorian barrister delivered a paper on our Cultural Day on John Simpson and his Greek donkey.

John Simpson was a stretcher-bearer in the 3rd Australian Field Ambulance. He came ashore during the Anzac landing of 25 April 1915 and was killed less than 3 weeks later. Simpson used donkeys (no doubt Greek donkeys) to transport wounded men from the fighting in Monash Valley down to the dressing (first-aid) station at Anzac Cove. He would have felt very much at home in my village where donkeys reign supreme.

The soldiers during the Gallipoli Campaign who were more seriously injured were taken to Mudros Bay on Lemnos Island and were cared for by mainly Australian nurses who, in my opinion were the unsung heroes of the Gallipoli Campaign.

My conferences organised a sold-out post conference tour to Gallipoli after the Seventh Thessaloniki conference. We later organised multiple other pre and post conference tours to Gallipoli which were always sold out. The Greek Conferences I believe were one of the first international events to include tours to Gallipoli. The large tour company we appointed to handle the tours in 1997 had never heard of Gallipoli. The name is derived from Kallipoli – beautiful city and Gallipoli is simply breathtaking.

We continued the ANZAC spirit by inviting Dr Ross Bastiaan AM to speak at our Eighth conference held on the island of Kos in 1999. Ross spoke on the Gallipoli Campaign on our Cultural Day. Ross Bastiaan is a periodontist with a family and personal passion in Australian military history and uses his dental skills to sculpt fine historical plaques that describe military history.

Ross is acknowledged as a renowned authority on the Gallipoli Campaign. He was the official Australian Government guide for the 52 Gallipoli Veterans who attended the 75th anniversary of the ANZAC landing in 1990.

When he is not extracting teeth, he sculpts military plaques that are erected in more than 20 countries. Australia has a large number War Memorials including its flagship one in Canberra. Ross is a riveting public speaker who demands attention coupled with his great knowledge of his subject. The Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia of Australia, The Hon Justice Murray Gleeson AC was our Keynote speaker who was equally riveted by Ross’s paper.

In 2001 the conferences Committee commissioned Ross to sculpt a plaque to be erected on Mudros Bay on Lemnos to honour and recognise the Australian nurses who until then, had been the unsung heroes of the Gallipoli Campaign.

These Conferences that I founded and chaired for almost 40 years from1985 started the movement that has now become known as the Lemnos Gallipoli Trail and my organisation helped put Lemnos and Mudros Bay well and truly on the international map.

I was born in a small remote village on the island of Lesvos and have been passionate about my place of birth. Lemnos at the time was part of the prefecture of Lesvos and I also have a sentimental love for Lemnos. I have been to Lemnos multiple times.

I convinced the then Prefect of Lesvos to fund the stonework around the plaque. The large surround of stonework around the monument commands attention

I was honoured to be invited to unveil the plaque with the then Prefect of Lesvos Mr Dimitri Vonatsos and His Excellency Mr Stuart Hume, the Australian Ambassador to Greece.

The documentary on SBS brought back solemn memories of Anzac Day 2002.

This documentary was excellent and reminded of the emotion and humility I felt when I was invited to lay a wreath in honour of those who died during the Gallipoli Campaign on ANZAC Day in 2002. I had trouble holding back my tears which luckily, were out of sight of the cameras.

The 2002 Ceremony was attended by representatives of all the allied counties most of who attended in full military uniform including New Zealand, Great Britian, India, France, Canada, and Ireland. Their flags can be seen fluttering in the background in the photos.

The British government was reluctant to send a representative as their defence attaché Brigadier Stephen Saunders was fatally injured in Athens on 8 June 2000 in by the November 17 urban guerilla group which had previously killed 23 Greeks and foreigners. The British reluctance was understandable.

Britain relented and sent their defence attaché but set very strict guidelines about security. The commemorative events were held over three days with full military honours from the Greek military as you can see in the photos. There were armed vehicles everywhere and bodyguards could be seen everywhere. There was a large crowd of locals in attendance including children and babies in strollers.

We were escorted to both cemeteries and the graveyards as well the archaeological sites. The local Bishop held another reception for us. The Greek hospitality was never ending. We were shown the original photos that were taken during the Gallipoli Campaign which were housed in a special museum. The same photos were included in the SBS documentary.

I attended two of the post conference tours to Gallipoli. The Turkish guides welcomed us warmly and presented me with a small box that contains a few stones that they had collected from Anzac Cove. The monuments in Gallipoli are immense and I hope that Lemnos Remembrance Trail grows to equal stature and that more monuments are added to the monument that I helped unveil.

The Greek conferences later commissioned another one of Ross Bastiaan’s plaques in Sfakia in Crete. In 2004 I held another conference in Crete to coincide with the anniversary of the Battle of Crete and I was present at the ceremony and the tour of Suda Bay.

I have visited a lot of the Australian War memorials in Australian around the world including the National War Memorial in Canberra. They are all superbly maintained and invariably they occupy the best piece of real estate. It is fitting that Australia maintain these monuments so well and I spend hours visiting the graves, reading their tombstones with tears running down my face.

I was delighted to see our Governor General David Hurley AC attend a similar service on Mudros Bay Lemnos on ANZAC Day 2023 together with the President of Greece Katerina Sakelaropoulou. This is evidence that both Australia and Greece support the preservation of the memory of those who fought in the Gallipoli Campaign for future generations and the role that Lemnos played in the Gallipoli Campaign.

To quote our Governor General David Hurley in his speech on Mudros Bay on ANZAC Day 2023 ‘Let us hope that The Lemnos Remembrance Trail will be the embodiment of Lest we forget’.

I would like to also acknowledge the assistance given to me by Steve Kyritsis of the Hellenic RSL Sub-Branch and Bruce Ruxton, the President of the RSL of Australia for their joint support in the 2002 ANZAC Day service on Mudros Lemnos possible.

The SBS documentary is available on demand on the SBS App for anybody who missed it.