Xanthoula and Slim – an Anzac love story

"A small vivacious girl who, in 1942 when only 15, helped to hide an Australian soldier from the enemy in Greece, arrived yesterday in the migrant ship, to marry him."

Sergeant Herbert Wrigley was one of 17,000 Australians who served in Greece during World War II, and amongst those captured by the Germans in April 1941 during the evacuation of Commonwealth forces from Greece.
After escaping from a German prisoner of war camp in Salonika, in September 1941, it was in the remote village of Ritini where he found his saviours – the family of the local school teacher Ioannis Papadopoulos sheltered him for more than six months, risking execution.
Who would have thought that the then 14-year-old daughter of Ioannis Papadopoulos, Xanthoula, would become the wife of a six-foot- tall and thin Australian soldier, Herbert ‘Slim’ Wrigley, nine years later?
After being sheltered by the Papadopoulos family, Slim joined the Greek resistance and fought with them until 1943, when he escaped to Turkey. Ioannis Papadopoulos was less fortunate – he was executed by the Germans on 13 January 1944, leaving behind his young family.
After the war, life continued and Xanthoula Papadopoulou started learning English.
One day, as she was looking through some old photos, she found a paper with the name and address of Herbert Wrigley.
“The year was 1949, one windy night sitting around looking at some family photos … a small piece of paper fell out. On it was a name and an address in Yarraville, Melbourne. The name was Herbert Wrigley (Slim), our special digger friend.”
Xanthoula’s mother urged her to write to Slim, in her beginner’s English, wanting to know how the kind young man they had protected was going. A few weeks later, the reply arrived. Slim Wrigley remembered the beautiful Greek girl, whose father had saved his life, and invited her to Australia.
After 12 months of correspondence, Xanthoula accepted the invitation, assured by Slim that if their relationship didn’t work out, he would pay for her to return home. Five weeks after her arrival in Australia, the couple got married in a Greek church.
“To honour your mother and your grandfather in Greece,” Herbert explained to her.
Slim and Xanthoula had two children, John and Michael. Herbert learned Greek, a language that helped him to achieve the rank of Acting Inspector for the Australian Federal Police.
Slim and Xanthoula spent 45 happy years together. Slim died of cancer in 1995, at the age of 75.
Xanthoula Wrigley, now an 86-year-old Ringwood resident, was recently invited by the Hellenic RSL for the OXI Day Wreath Laying ceremony at the Australian Hellenic Memorial, to honour the soldiers that died in WWII.