Honouring the memory of dual ANZAC Constantine Aroney BEM at his restored grave

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*Information compiled by Kalie Zervos and Amalia Samios. Photos kindly supplied by Michael Samios and Matina Zervos.

Each year on ANZAC Day we commemorate those who fought and died at Gallipoli in 1915 and those brave men and women who have fought in conflicts since then. 

Amongst the young men who enlisted in the Australian Armed forces in WWI were new immigrants from Greece including a Kytherian named Constantine Aroney. He was a dual ANZAC having served in both WWI and WWII.

On April 19, as part of ANZAC Day 2024 celebrations, Kalie Zervos and Amalia Samios of Kytherian Genealogy Project, had the absolute honour to take part in an Australian flag raising ceremony at his restored grave site, to acknowledge his service to King and Country in both World Wars. 

A few months ago, a representative of the Brighton Cemetorians, a not-for-profit organisation in Melbourne, contacted Kalie and Amalia after coming across Kalie’s blog on the Kytherian Genealogy Project website about Constantine Aroney BEM, the only known Kytherian dual ANZAC. They informed them of their project to restore grave sites of returned soldiers buried in Brighton Cemetery, which this year included the gravesite of Constantine Aroney, but also to invite surviving family members to take part in celebrations.

As Constantine has no known surviving family, the Cemetorians invited Kalie and Amalia to raise the flag in his honour as they are regarded as the forerunners in Kytherian family history worldwide. They were honoured to step in to commemorate the sacrifice and courage of this man, who fought for values of freedom and who in WWII bravely saved men in Greece.

The commemoration ceremony started with a welcome from the President of the Cemetorians, followed by a representative of the Victorian RSL, who recited the Ode of Remembrance and raised the first Australian flag. The other forty-nine Australian flags were then handed to each family or representative. It was done alphabetically so Amalia and Kalie had the honour of receiving the very first flag.

The raising of the flag at Constantine’s grave was very moving for those present. This man came from humble beginnings in Kythera and had the courage to fight for his adopted country, not once but twice. Now he is immortalised where he lies and will be remembered every ANZAC and Remembrance Day when the Cemetorians will continue to raise a flag in his honour.

Who was Constantine Aroney?

Constantine Aroney was born in Aroniadika, Kythera on 12th March 1891 to Panagioti Aronis and Stamatia Margeti and was baptised in the church of Sotiros Christos Aroniadika on 25th March 1891. The passenger list of the Waipara, which travelled from London arriving in Brisbane on 5th July 1911, shows a 16-year-old Konstantine Aronis on board. As the research into migration records reveal no other Constantine Aroney immigrating during that period and his age matches service records, it can be assumed that this is the record of his arrival in Australia.

According to military records, he was a naturalised British subject in 1915.

He was living in Melbourne at the time of his enlistment into the Australian Army on 6th March 1915. His army records show he was initially deployed as a private to the 24th Infantry Battalion “B” Company. He was not at Gallipoli on the day of the fateful battle, as he left Australia on 8th May 1915 and arrived there on 30th August 1915. Whilst in Gallipoli, he contracted conjunctivitis twice and was hospitalised for a short period. The records show he then went to Malta, Alexandria in Egypt and then was transferred to the 2nd Australian Division Salvage Unit on 24th January 1917 and was deployed to France. In April 1918, he was admitted to hospital with a suspected hernia. He was transferred to Reading War Hospital in England, where he was operated on for a double hernia. He returned to Australia on 31st July 1918 and was discharged in Melbourne on 11th September 1918.

In October 1939, he enlisted in the Commonwealth Military Forces and seven months later transferred to the 2nd Australian Imperial Forces and the Headquarters of the 1st Australian Corps, serving in Palestine, North Africa, Greece, Crete and Syria. He was listed as divorced on his enlistment records for WWII. Further investigation into Victorian records show he was divorced from Muriel Agnes Aroney in 1928. They had a son together named Reginald, who sadly passed away at the age of nine months in 1925. At the time of his enlistment, he was living in South Yarra and his next of kin was listed as his sister Annie, who lived in Kythera. By 1940 his address was listed as Carrington Mansions, 22 Albert Rd South Melbourne and his next of kin was listed as Elizabeth Lawrence, a friend who also lived at the same address, where he seemed to have spent the rest of his life. The address may have been a boarding house as one reference to it has been found in a Victorian newspaper archive, in which it was listed as the address of the infamous gangster Squizzy Taylor in 1924, who by chance is also buried in Brighton Cemetery.

Aroney’s background and ability to speak Greek proved extremely valuable when serving in Greece in WWII. When the allied forces were overrun by the German Army, Aroney managed to escape to Crete in an open boat, taking 23 soldiers with him, whom he cared for with the help of Cretan locals. This heroic feat earned him a British Empire Medal in the new year’s honour list in 1944.

Voters’ lists show his occupation as a soldier and later a TPI pensioner. He passed away on 8th August of 1967 at the age of 76 in Heidelberg, Victoria, and was buried along with his infant son in Brighton Cemetery.

Lest we forget!

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