Last Saturday 8 August witnessed the unveiling of the first memorial erected in Australia commemorating Lemnos’ role in Australia’s Anzac story – 100 years to the day since Australia’s nurses arrived on Lemnos during the Gallipoli campaign.

The unveiling was attended by over 400 people, including many dignitaries and descendents of diggers and nurses who served on Lemnos in 1915. The event commenced with a re-enactment of the arrival of the nurses, to the sound of the bagpipes of Warrant Officer Archibald Monk – played by Piper Alan Leggett, with Faye Theyfall and her nurse and digger re-enactors.

The launch was accompanied by the release of a commemorative booklet detailing the Lemnos link to Anzac and Port Philip and the story of the creation of the memorial.

The new memorial is the work of the Melbourne-based Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee Inc. The committee was formed in 2011 to promote awareness of Lemnos’ link to Anzac as well as Greece’s link to Anzac across both the First and Second World Wars.

Mr Lee Tarlamis, president of the committee, said it was one of the proudest moments of his life:

“Our committee has worked over the past four years to build awareness of Lemnos and its role in Anzac. Our priority project was to create a lasting legacy for the future. The unveiling of the memorial has been our signature achievement, building on our Lemnos Gallipoli Photographic Exhibition. As both a son of a Lemnian and a descendent of a digger who served, this is a very proud moment for me and my family.”

Lee’s father was born on Lemnos and migrated to Australia in 1968. His mother is descended from Private Edward Tozer, an Anzac who served on Lemnos in 1915.

The MC for the event was Mr Ross Alatsas, acting chairperson of the Victorian Multicultural Commission and general manager of the Greek Media Group. The Royal Australian Navy Band performed the Greek and Australian national anthems for the unveiling.

The memorial is designed and created by Mr Peter Corlett, OAM, one of Australia’s most well-respected commemorative sculptors. Committee secretary and historian Mr Jim Claven shared with Peter the results of his research into the Lemnos link to Anzac, the role of Australia’s nurses and their hospitals during the Gallipoli campaign, documented in the hundreds of photographs and writings of the Anzacs themselves.

Peter was able to combine these key features of Lemnos’ Anzac link with his appreciation of Classical Greek sculpture and mythology, and produce a memorial that speaks of this vital Hellenic connection to Australia’s Gallipoli story. And as the sculpture’s green hue echoes Classical sculpture, so is the memorial’s stone plinth a reminder of the stones of Lemnos’ ancient amphitheatre at Hephaestia. Describing his creation, Peter spoke of the memorial’s debt to women:

“A key aspect of the Lemnos story is the story of women – the nurses who served here in war and healed the sick and injured diggers, and Lemnos’ mythic Queen Hypsipyle and real warrior Princess Maroula.”

The memorial was financially supported by many organisations and individuals as well as by all levels of government, including the City of Port Phillip, which has generously allowed the memorial to be erected in Albert Park, not far from Princes Pier where the Anzacs departed for Lemnos and Gallipoli.

Cr Amanda Stevens, mayor of Port Phillip, said that the city was proud to support the Lemnos Gallipoli Memorial, given its strong links to the local community:

“Nearly 5,000 diggers and nurses who served in the First World War came from Port Phillip. Many of these served at Gallipoli and would have known Lemnos, such as Albert Park’s Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Mitchell Wilson and Elwood’s Nurse Clarice Daley, who both served at the 3rd Australian General Hospital. And of course, Matron Grace Wilson, who returned from the war to be matron of our local hospital, the Alfred. This new memorial commemorates the service of nurses and soldiers such as these.”

The committee’s secretary, historian Mr Jim Claven, addressed the crowd, explaining the historical link between Lemnos, Anzac and the local Port Phillip community. He pointed to the great archive of photographs and words written by the Anzacs themselves which lie in museums and libraries across Australia and overseas, which provided the inspiration for the committee’s work. He pointed to the small selection featured in the special commemorative booklet he prepared for the event as an example of the richness of this archive.

Mr Claven bemoaned the way that Lemnos has often been left out of the Anzac story and expressed his desire that the memorial will go a long way to expanding awareness of Lemnos’ part in the experience of the Anzacs 100 years ago.

The Hon Michael Danby, MP for Melbourne Ports, said that the memorial was one of the most important funded under the federal government’s Anzac Centenary Community Grants Program, and one that he was proud to support.

The event was addressed by the Hon. Gavin Jennings MP, Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council, representing the premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, and Ms Christina Simantiraki, consul-general of Greece. Ms Simantiraki said that the memorial was a symbol of the long history of the connection between Greece and Australia and one that deserved to be commemorated with its own dedicated sculptures.

The committee read out a message of congratulations from Brigadier General Kaperonis Panagiotis, director of Athens War Museum, who announced the museum’s decision to mount a permanent section of the museum dedicated to telling the Lemnos Gallipoli story and that he looked forward to working with the committee on future commemorative activities. During the Anzac Centenary commemorations in Greece, the committee gifted a copy of its photographic exhibition to the Athens War Museum.

One of the highlights of the event was the participation of many descendents of the actual diggers and nurses who served on Lemnos, with many attending the event from interstate. Dr David Weedon, a descendent of Matron Grace Wilson, addressed the event and shared some personal memories of Grace, who was well respected by the nurses she served with. Dr Weedon was a major financial supporter of the project.

Dr Weedon concluded his address by assisting the president of the committee, Mr Lee Tarlamis, in pulling the cord to unveil the new memorial.

The unveiling was followed by a special cultural and commemorative event, combining Greek refreshments, traditional Greek music and dance and reminiscences by the descendents of the nurses and diggers who served on Lemnos and others.

These included speeches by Ms Judith Gunnarson, the daughter of Nurse Evelyn Hutt, who served with Grace Wilson at the 3rd Australian General Hospital on Lemnos, Ms Helen O’Connor, a descendent of St Kilda’s Trooper Albert Bent, Nick Dwyer, a descendent of Grace Wilson, and the Reverend Richard Hall, who addressed the assembly on behalf of the families of Nurse Clarice Daley and Sergeant Ernest Lawrence, who were famously married on Lemnos during the Gallipoli campaign.

Former Victorian Anzac Student Prize winner Mr Michael Manoussakis recounted the story of how he visited the grave of Private Peter Rados, a Hellenic Anzac from Asia Minor, who was one of the 12 Anzacs of Greek birth or background who served at Gallipoli.

Two students from Albert Park College also addressed the crowd, recounting the stories of Corporal Albert Jacka VC, who would return to be mayor of St Kilda, and that of Albert Park’s Corporal George Finlay Knight, who is buried in Lemnos’ East Mudros Military Cemetery.

The memorial also honours those ordinary men and women who served – such as Elwood’s Nurse Clarice Daley, St Kilda builder’s labourer Trooper Albert Bent and electrician Corporal George Knight. This is one of the reasons that three trade unions – the Electrical Trade Union, the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union and the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation have been strong financial supporters of the creation of this memorial.

A feature of the cultural event were performances by three dance groups – the Hellenic Cultural Association of Melbourne (A Periklis) Dance Group, the Cretan Brotherhood Dance Group and the Pontiaki Estia Melbourne Victoria Dance Group. These traditional performances were in honour of the Greek contribution to Anzac – by the Lemnians who supported the Anzacs on Lemnos, by the Cretan and Asia Minor volunteers – as well as Private Peter Rados – who fought alongside their Anzac allies all those years ago.

The event concluded with a special performance by renowned Melbourne mezzo soprano Karen van Spall singing the Grace Wilson aria, written by Mr Kevin O’Flaherty and accompanied by composer Mr David Kram.

Mr Tarlamis said that the unveiling of the memorial was a tribute to the work of the many members and supporters of the committee.

“The memorial builds on the work of our committee in raising awareness of Lemnos’ role in Anzac both in Australia and in Greece over the past four years and our landmark Lemnos Gallipoli Photographic Exhibition, which has been launched in Athens and Melbourne and will soon tour Australia.”

He looked forward to the realisation of the next project in the New Year – the publication of a major new authoritative publication telling the Lemnos Anzac story, featuring many of the photographs taken by the Anzacs themselves and the words of the Anzacs from their diaries, letters and memoirs telling of their experience of Lemnos. This will be another major achievement for the committee and a legacy for future generations.

Mr Tarlamis and Mr Claven thanked all the participants who contributed to the success of the event. They believe that the new memorial will be a place of commemoration for future generations, a pointer for further learning and appreciation of the service of these thousands of young Australians, those who remain in its war graves and the Lemnians and other Hellenes who supported them.