Historic link between Battle of Crete and ANZACs a focus of Sydney commemorations

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The historic link between the Battle of Crete and the ANZAC forces were a key focus of commemorations in Sydney, New South Wales for the 83rd anniversary of the German airborne attack on the Greek island of Crete in 1941.

Commemorations began on Friday, May 17 at the Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park, with a talk by one of Australia’s leading authors of military history, Craig Collie. The talk, which was co-hosted by the Cretan Association of Sydney and NSW and the Consulate of Greece in Sydney, saw Mr Collie speak passionately about his novel Where the Flaming Hell Are We? – The story of young Australians and New Zealanders fighting the Nazis in Greece and Crete.

The next day, on Saturday, May 18, the Joint Committee for the Commemoration of the Battle of Crete and the Greek Campaign held its annual wreath laying ceremony at the Martin Place Cenotaph.

battle of crete sydney wreath laying (466)
All photos copyright The Greek Herald / Andriana Simos.

Despite the sporadic rain, the solemn ceremony was attended by close to 300 people including a delegation from the Hellenic Ministry of Defence featuring Vice Admiral Christos Sasiakos, Deputy Chief of the Hellenic National Defence General Staff; Captain Pavlos Angelopoulos, Staff Officer of the Bilateral Relations Directorate of the Hellenic National Defence General Staff; Lieutenant Commander Stylianos Mitsiotis, Staff Officer of Public Relations Directorate of the Hellenic National Defence General Staff; and Colonel Ioannis Fasianos, Military Attache of the Hellenic National Defence Force based in Canberra.

battle of crete sydney wreath laying (466)
battle of crete sydney wreath laying (466)
battle of crete sydney wreath laying (466)
battle of crete sydney wreath laying (466)
battle of crete sydney wreath laying (466)

In attendance were also Major Ed Chan, Aide-de-Camp representing the NSW Governor Margaret Beazley AC KC; the Consul General of Greece in Sydney, Yannis Mallikourtis; the Trade Commissioner of Greece in Australia, Chrysa Prokopaki; Archbishop Makarios of Australia; federal and state members of Parliament; local councillors and religious leaders; representatives of Greek and Cypriot associations, schools and cultural organisations; Australian defence force personnel; and relatives of people who fought and died in the Battle of Crete.

battle of crete sydney wreath laying (466)
battle of crete sydney wreath laying (466)
battle of crete sydney wreath laying (466)
battle of crete sydney wreath laying (466)
battle of crete sydney wreath laying (466)

Master of Ceremonies, Colonel Graham Fleeton RFD Ret’d and Periklis Kougias BSc, began the official proceedings on the day.

The proceedings included a number of hymns, a memorial service by Archbishop Makarios, and a prayer of remembrance by Chaplain Andrew Nixon.

In an address, Archbishop Makarios encouraged people to never take for granted their liberty, but rather “strive to be worthy of the sacrifices” made by those brave soldiers who fought during the Battle of Crete for freedom.

battle of crete sydney wreath laying (466)

There were also two official addresses by Vice Admiral Sasiakos and the Assistant Minister for Defence, Matt Thistlethwaite MP.

Vice Admiral Sasiakos spoke of the historic bonds between Greeks and the Australian and New Zealand troops during WWII and in particular, the Battle of Crete. He also thanked those brave men and women who fought for freedom during the war.

“Lest we forget,” he said.

In response, Mr Thistlethwaite gave a brief history of the Battle of Crete, and emphasised the impact of WWII on Australia and its migration history. He said that as a result of the war, tens of thousands of people left their homes in search of a new life in Australia, and went on to thank the Greek community for their contributions to the nation.

Following these speeches, wreaths were then laid by official guests in attendance.

The event concluded with the recital of The Ode by Peter Tsigounis; the playing of the Last Post; the singing of the National Anthems of Greece and Australia by the choirs of St Euphemia College, All Saints Grammar and St Spyridon College, with support from The Royal Australian Naval Band Sydney; and a minute’s silence.

Assistant Minister for Defence, Matt Thistlethwaite MP.

Despite the wreath laying coming to an end, Sydney’s Cretan community held two more events to mark the anniversary of the Battle of Crete.

Later on Saturday night, the Cretan Association of Sydney and NSW held its annual dinner dance at the Grand Vaudeville in Condell Park.

On Sunday, May 19, there was also an official memorial service and Doxology organised by the Joint Committee for the Commemoration of the Battle of Crete and the Greek Campaign at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation of the Theotokos in Redfern.

*All photos copyright The Greek Herald / Andriana Simos.

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