Currently, there is no war memorial in Western Australia to recognise the courage of those ANZACs who served in the Battle of Crete during World War II, and to pay tribute to the Cretan people who sheltered Australian troops at the time.
The Greek Herald spoke with Bill Evangel, Chairperson of the Battle of Crete Memorial Committee in WA, about erecting a designated war memorial in Perth’s Kings Park.
Kings Park is one of the world’s largest inner-city parks steeped in history, and has the most memorials and statues than any other park in Australia.
“The idea of erecting a monument at Kings Park came about because the battle was not well known or recognised in the wider community,” Mr Evangel tells The Greek Herald.
The Battle of Crete and its connection to WA:
The Western Australian 2nd/11th battalion and HMAS PERTH played important roles in the Battle of Crete. Military personnel and civilians gave their lives resisting the enemy. For many Commonwealth troops left on the island after its evacuation, it was Cretan men, women and children, including clergy, who sheltered them and guided them to safety.
This fact was recognised by the late Corporal Geoff Edwards of the 2nd/11th’s Carrier Platoon, who remembered the Cretans who helped him evade capture. In their honour, he built a Greek Orthodox church, St John the Theologian, on the hill above his seaside community and named his home in WA, Prevelly Park, after the monastery at Preveli on Crete.
“I’m not saying we should overshadow Gallipoli, but it is an important part of the general Australian military history that needs to be known – especially by West Australians,” Mr Evangel says.
The battle was supposed to only last a day or two, but it took weeks and upset the plans of German military advances. They became bogged down in the snow and cold, which helped the Allies overcome the power and military strength of the Germans.
“Many say this battle turned the tide of the war because it slowed down the German military in their advance toward Russia,” Mr Evangel explains.
“This was another formation of the ANZAC troops, the second formation after the Gallipoli campaign. By the time these soldiers from the mainland reached Crete, it became another ANZAC alliance. But not much is known about this ANZAC effort or campaign.”
While many families of the veterans are aware of the battle and its significance, Mr Evangel believes it’s important to bring this part of history to the Australian public in an honourable way.
Making the memorial a reality:
The planned memorial will have beautiful and educational symbolism in its design for people to learn about the stories of the Battle of Crete.
Mr Evangel and the committee have worked diligently to erect the war memorial, which is proposed to be completed within two years. The Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority (formerly Kings Park Board) have given ‘in principle’ approval for the memorial to be located in Kings Park at a site near Saw Avenue, close to the Battle of Tobruk Memorial.
The design concepts by internationally acclaimed Smith Sculptors have also been approved, although they are subject to minor changes. The design is based on a ‘broken column,’ a metaphor for a life cut short. Around the column are four images in relief:
- An Australian Soldier of the 2nd/11th (City of Perth) Battalion facing North, direction that the invaders of Crete had come from;
- To his left and facing West, is a Greek Soldier of 1941;
- Facing South is a Royal Australian Navy Rating; and
- Facing East is a Cretan peasant woman, to recognise the heavy involvement of local civilians in the battle.
Now – with an abundance of support from the Greek community, Federal and State governments, the Greek Consul, the National Trust of Western Australia, the RSL WA, the City of Perth, St Andrew’s Grammar and a number of industry groups – this project is becoming a reality.
The project is also supported by its patrons, Archbishop Makarios of Australia and Richard Sandover, whilst the WA Government, RSL WA and Lottery West have contributed to the memorial budget. And yet, while most of the funds have been raised, donations are still needed to complete the project.
“This is something West Australians can be proud of,” Mr Evangel says.
You can find out more about the memorial here: https://battleofcrete.org.au/. Tax deductible donations can be made via the National Trust (WA) at: nationaltrust.org.au/services/battle-of-crete-memorial or battleofcrete.org.au/donations