An important milestone in Greece’s build up to the Centenary of Anzac in 2015 occurred last week. For the first time an official delegation of Victorian school students was welcomed to the northern Aegean Island of Lemnos to appreciate its connection to Anzac.
The students took part in the annual Anzac commemorative service conducted at East Mudros Military Cemetery, which was held on 7th April.
Ms Jenny Bloomfield, Australian Ambassador to Greece, and Australian Deputy Chief of Navy, Rear Admiral Michael van Balen were in attendance, along with senior representatives of the Hellenic Military as well as local Lemnian authorities and church representatives.
A moving part of the service was the speech prepared by Beaufort Secondary College student, Bianca Gerrard. She recounted the story of an Anzac from near her home town of Beaufort, 19-year-old Private Donald Chisholm of the 23rd Battalion, who is buried at East Mudros Military Cemetery – along with 97 other Australians.
Her speech included a moving poem she had written for the occasion, ending with the following touching words:
“On the beautiful island of Lemnos a safe haven was found,
The relief of relaxing on a temporary sporting ground,
Wounds were tended to,
And the nurses’ touch a blessing,
We remember you today,
Thank you for your sacrifice and service,
The ANZACs that fought for us,
Lest we forget.”
Commemorative wreaths were laid, including by the two Australian veterans who accompanied the tour, Peter Colliver and David Gilroy.
The twelve secondary school students hailed from across Victoria and were all selected by the Victorian Government as the Premier’s Spirit of Anzac Prize Winners for 2014. As reported in Neos Kosmos on 18th February 2014, one of the winning students is Michael Manoussakis, from Mill Park, who attends Marymede Catholic College, and whose family traces its heritage to Imvros, an island which, like Lemnos, was involved in the Gallipoli campaign.
Along with the students and two teachers, the delegation was led by Dr Bill Sykes, MP, representing the Victorian Government. Tour historian is Monash University’s Professor Bruce Scates, Chair of History and Australian Studies at Monash University.
The students were made very welcome on Lemnos – with one of the students ending her blog post with καληνύχτα.
The students were welcomed to Lemnos on arrival at a special dinner. Demetri Boulotis, deputy mayor of Lemnos, welcomed the students on behalf of the Lemnians municipality. This was held at the beautiful Myrina harbour – where the Anzacs sat and enjoyed Lemnian hospitality in 1915.
Dr Sykes presented the municipality with a specially framed picture of the Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance – the design of which was based on the famed ancient Greek Mausoleum of Halicarnassus.
The students were also welcomed by the Moudros Senior High School community, including head teacher Ms Papapanagiotou and her students. Hopefully this will be the first of many links between Victorian and Lemnos students researching the Anzac and Gallipoli story.
The students were also able to appreciate some of Lemnos’ history, with a tour of the ancient settlement of Poliochni and Myrina’s Venetian castle.
The Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee worked with the organisers and liaised with the Lemnians authorities to make the students’ visit a good one.
The students visited the key Anzac sites on Lemnos – from Myrina’s harbour and castle, through East Moudros harbour, the 148 Australian graves across the two Commonwealth Military Cemeteries and Portianou’s ‘Anzac cafe’, to the sites of the Australian hospitals and the hot baths of Therma.
This has given them a great understanding of the role of Lemnos in Australia’s Anzac story and the continuing relationship between Australia and Greece.
It was particular good to see that the students researched some of the diggers who died and are buried on Lemnos as well as the nurses who also served there in 1915.
Apart from Bianca, Laura Bishop of West Footscray, who attends Westbourne Grammar School, selected Nursing Sister Catherine McNaughton, who served as one of the 130 Australian nurses on Lemnos.
Michael Manoussakis chose to research the story of the famous Greek Australian Anzac, Private Peter Rados.
Private Rados was the one of the twelve Anzacs of Hellenic heritage who saw service at Gallipoli. Born in Athens, he was a 24-year-old cook from Melbourne when he enlisted into the 3rd Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force. He was killed at Gallipoli on 19th May 1915 and lies in Ari Burnu Cemetery, along with another 150 of his Australian comrades.
Mr Lee Tarlamis MP and President of the Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee added that the Lemnos authorities and Mudros Senior Secondary School were very happy with the visit and hoped it would be the first of many.
“It’s great that Greek authorities like those on Lemnos are telling the story of Anzac and the ongoing link between Australia and Greece. This can only be good for both countries,” he said.
Mr Tarlamis said that the Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee was committed to working with Australian and Greek authorities to make sure that successful tours like this were only the first of many more to come.
The students went on from Lemnos to Gallipoli, where Michael Manoussakis commemorated the service and placed a poppy on Peter Rados’ grave at Ani Burni Cemetery, near Anzac Cove. On his way to Gallipoli it was also great to see that Michael was able to meet up with his relatives in Athens.
The tour ends with the students visiting the battlefields of Western France.
Readers wishing to follow the students’ tour can read their daily reports on their tour blog at www.premiersspiritofanzac2014.blogspot.com.au/2014/04/tired-weary-and-ha…