Jeff Hughes: Story of late Battle of Crete veteran Alf Carpenter ‘should be shared globally’

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The Cretan Association of Sydney & NSW, in conjunction with This Story Australia, will be screening the documentary Second Generation ANZAC – The Story of Alf Carpenter at Palace Norton Street Cinemas in Leichhardt, Sydney on Monday, May 15 from 6.30pm.

The documentary was made by Brisbane filmmaker and CEO of This Story Australia, Jeff Hughes, and is a tribute to the late Alf Carpenter who fought in the Battle of Crete and passed away last year at the age of 105. He was one of the last surviving ANZAC veterans of The Battle of Crete.

Ahead of the Sydney premiere of the documentary, The Greek Herald spoke with Mr Hughes about what people can expect on the night.

1. Tell us a little bit about This Story Australia.

This Story Australia was founded to preserve the personal stories of veterans in documentary interviews. The interviews contain the stories of everyday people placed in extraordinary situations and have rose to the occasion in the service of Australia. Interviews are gifted to the families of veterans and the State Library in the state where the veteran resides.

CEO of This Story Australia, Jeff Hughes.

2. You’ve recently produced a documentary on the late ANZAC Alf Carpenter. How did this documentary come about and what does it focus on?

I met author and researcher Deborah Wheeler in 2020 at the launch of her book Silk Clouds and Olive Trees – Tales from the Battle of Crete. She explained that WWII veteran Alf Carpenter had provided the forward to her book, and just how great it would be to preserve his story on film – the way we had for over 50 veterans across Australia. We applied for a Regional Development Australia (RDA) Grant from the Southern Downs Council, as Deborah resides in Warwick. We were successful and set to interview Alf in 2021.

The lingering COVID-19 pandemic made things very difficult for us as Alf lived in Newcastle, NSW. Borders were still closed and the opportunity to interview Alf, who at the time was 104 years old, was seriously in jeopardy. We decided to conduct the interview remotely via Facetime and sought a cinematographer in Newcastle to facilitate the interview. With aged care still limiting visitors to family only, we contacted the Hamilton-Mereweather-Adamstown RSL Sub-branch and asked for a controlled space to conduct the interview. The logistics came together and we interviewed Alf in late October 2021.

The documentary focuses on Alf’s life, but most prolifically his service to Australia from Northern Africa to Greece and Crete and ultimately back defending Australia in Darwin, Papua New Guinea and Bougainville. Alf was particularly proud of the people of Greece and in particular the people of Crete, whom he remembered with love and respect.

3. The documentary won Best Short Doc at the Mykonos Film Festival this year. How did that feel? Did Alf know?

Having completed this special documentary, we believed Alf’s story was one that should be shared with the world. We entered a number of Film Festivals and were selections at the Heart of Gold Film Festival in Gympie, Queensland, Kalamata and in Mykonos. We were notified as finalists in Kalamata in August 2022 and were able to share this with Alf. He was delighted that the people of Greece were hearing his story and that it was acknowledged officially at this festival. Alf passed away in September 2022, five months before we learned of our nomination and win for Best Short Documentary at the Mykonos International Film Festival.

Alf Carpenter (second from right front row).

4. Why do you encourage people to watch the documentary screening in Sydney this month?

This Story Australia strives to share the stories of everyday people who have accomplished great things in the face of adversity. Stories explain the world. They always have and they always will. If we take the time to listen, we can start to connect with others in the community. A community that is connected is a safer place to live, a better community to work in and allows us to support each other without judgment or prejudice. We believe that this is a community we all can strive to be a part of.

5. Is there anything else you’d like to say?

As a charity, This Story Australia is not supported by the government. In order to continue to do our work we need to ask the public and businesses for donations, sponsorships and strategic partnerships. We must ensure we do not miss the opportunities to preserve the stories of our servicemen and women, so please reach out to us personally and have the conversation. With your support we can ensure that ‘Lest We Forget’ is an action, not just a phrase.

Second Generation: The Story of Alf Carpenter will screen as a part of the Battle of Crete Commemorations in Sydney at the Palace Cinemas, 99 Norton Street, Leichhardt on Monday, May 15 from 6.30pm. Both Deborah Wheeler and Jeff Hughes will be in attendance and copies of Silk Clouds and Olive Trees will be on sale. The Greek Herald is a proud media partner for this event.

Tickets available from http://www.trybooking.com/CHGRY

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