Anzac Day was commemorated early in Lemnos this year, with Australia’s Deputy Chief of the Navy, Rear Admiral Michael van Balen, participating in the official commemorative event organised by the Lemnos regional government on April 7.
Australia’s ambassador to Greece Jenny Bloomfield confirmed that the visit by the RAN chief is a precursor to the navy’s major presence at Lemnos in a year’s time to mark the Anzac Centenary.
Rear Admiral van Balen was joined by his Greek counterparts Chief of the Hellenic Navy – Evangelos Apostolakis and Vice Chief of the Hellenic Defence Force – Vice Admiral Alexandros Theodosiou.
Present alongside Ambassador Bloomfield was Regional Councillor for Lemnos, Mr Savvas Vareltzis, Mayor of Lemnos – Mr Antonis Chatzidiamantis, as well as other local dignitaries.
NZ ambassador to Greece Mr Trevor Matheson – who is based in Rome, and the Canadian ambassador Mr Robert Peck also participated. Canadian nurses served in Lemnos during the Gallipoli campaign, alongside British, New Zealand and Australian medical staff.
Joining the officials were secondary school students from Victoria who had been awarded the Victorian Premier’s Spirit of the Anzacs Prize. Representing the state government was Bill Sykes MP – the Nationals member for Benalla. The students also visited Gallipoli as part of their study tour.
In her speech at the Lemnos wreath-laying ceremony, Ambassador Bloomfield said: “From Lemnos and Gallipoli in 1915, to the Battle of Crete in May 1941, and around the world, Australians and Greeks have fought to uphold our shared values with courage, with self-sacrifice, with mateship and with compassion.
“Today, to the people of Lemnos, we express our nation’s deep appreciation. And to all those – Australians, New Zealanders, Greeks and all our friends – who sacrificed their lives so that we may preserve our way of life – their courage, their selflessness, their compassion, their sense of service and duty, inspire us to live by those ideals.”
During the Lemnos commemorations Ambassador Bloomfield announced a project with Greek Australian composer Tassos Ioannidis to mark the Centenary of Anzac involving a collaboration between Australian, Greek and Turkish artists.
In Athens, the Australian embassy’s Anzac Day commemoration will be held at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery at Alimos (Phaleron) on April 25 at 11.00 am. The commemoration is open to all.
Joining dignitaries will be Greece’s Minister of National Defence, Mr Dimitris Avramopoulos.
Young Australians acknowledging the duty and sacrifice of their forbears will also feature at the Athens event. Attending will be a group of school students from the Hunter Valley who will lay a wreath on behalf of WWII Battle of Greece veteran Alfred Carpenter.
They met 97-year-old Mr Carpenter – who lives in Newcastle – through the ‘Adopt a Digger’ schools program.
Mr Carpenter went to Greece with the 2/4 Australian Infantry Battalion in April 1941. The Greek campaign in WWII was the only time – other than WWI – that an Australian and New Zealand Army Corp (ANZAC) was officially formed.