On the 18th September, the Hon Sophie Cotsis gave the following address to the NSW Legislative Council commemorating the role of Lemnos in 1915.
She reports on the work of the Lemnian Community of NSW, supported by AHEPA and the Consulate General of Greece in NSW:
- They will hold a commemorative service at 5am, 4 March 2015, to mark 100 years since the first Australian troops landed on Lemnos.
- They have established a dedicated Facebook Page, Lemnos 1915
Congratulations to the Lemnian Community of NSW. Thanks to John Pandazopoulos MP for this information.
Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee
Here is Sophie Cotsis, MP's speech:
In May 2011 I spoke in this place about the proud military history shared by Hellenes and Australians, as our two nations commemorated the seventieth anniversary of the Battle of Crete during World War II. This year marks the centenary of the outbreak of World War I, and next year will mark 100 years since Australian forces launched their campaign at Gallipoli. Gallipoli is rightly regarded as one of the most important campaigns in Australia's military history. It is also an important part of the story of Australia's relationship with Greece.
After their training in Egypt, the first contingent of the Australian Imperial Force travelled to the Greek island of Lemnos to prepare for the Gallipoli campaign. The Greek Government had made the island of Lemnos available as a base for the Allies' campaign against the Ottoman Empire. Lemnos became the final staging ground where Australian troops assembled and practised for their landing. Australians formed a special bond with Lemnos. As Gunner Sydney Loch of the Australian 2nd Field Artillery wrote:
- I never quite shook off the glamour of that island in the deep blue
of the Aegean. Never was there an early morning when skies were not blue
and waters unruffled. Breezes softer and more scented than human kisses
floated perpetually to us from the hills of Lemnos.
All 50,000 Anzacs who landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula first passed through Lemnos, along with hundreds of thousands of other Allied forces. Lemnos hosted hospitals and convalescent camps, housed the depots that supported the ill-fated campaign, and shared the suffering of tens of thousands of ill and wounded soldiers and sailors. It was from Lemnos that the first Australian submarine to serve in war—HMAS AE2—sailed into history as the first Allied vessel to penetrate the defences along the Dardanelles. Five Australian Navy warships patrolled the waters off Lemnos—HMAS Brisbane, HMAS Parramatta, HMAS Swan, HMAS Warrego and HMAS Yarra.
During the course of World War I, 371 Australian nurses, all volunteers, served in Hellas—360 in British and Australian army hospitals and 10 in Scottish women's hospitals. One Australian bacteriologist, Dr Elsie Jean Dalyell, also served. More than 57,000 sick and 37,000 wounded troops were evacuated from Gallipoli to the hospitals at Lemnos. Indeed the main thoroughfare through the tents that made up these field hospitals was called Macquarie Street—a reference to Sydney's own hospital. When Australian troops finally evacuated from Gallipoli in December 1915 they returned to Lemnos. Today Lemnos is the site of two Commonwealth War Graves, where 148 Australians and 76 New Zealanders are buried. Those Anzacs who succumbed to their wounds in the hospitals of Lemnos forever rest amongst friends in the Commonwealth military cemeteries at West Moudros and Portianos.
The inhabitants of Lemnos received the Anzac soldiers and nurses as friends and guests, making their island home the last paradise our Anzacs would see before heading off to Gallipoli. For those Anzacs wounded, ill or on leave, Lemnos represented life, beauty, hope and joy away from what was happening around Anzac Cove. The landscape of Lemnos and the smiles of her inhabitants were the last images that many of our Anzacs kept in their hearts and minds as they departed for the trenches at the Gallipoli Peninsula. Even there the Anzacs took a memento of Lemnos with them—I am told that the donkey used by Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick to rescue wounded Anzacs came from Lemnos. By early 1917 the last Australians had departed Lemnos. For most of them the island had been a place of transit. For many, it was a refuge for medical care or brief recuperation. For hundreds, it was a place of burial in the waters around the island or her welcoming soil.
The Lemnos 1915 committee is feverishly preparing a series of events that will cover the whole of the centenary of Anzac in 2015. One of those will be a dawn service at the Martin Place cenotaph on 4 March 2015 at 5 a.m, marking the time the first Anzacs landed on Lemnos. They also have a Lemnos 1915 Facebook page. Finally I would like to emphasise that Lemnos 1915 is among the more important episodes of 115 years of Australian-Hellenic sacrifice, courage and camaraderie since both peoples first went to war as allies defending democracy, rule of law and human rights. Since 1899 Australians and Hellenes have followed the recommendation of the sixth century Hellene philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras: Tas leoforous mi vadizeis—do not follow the beaten track
To view the full speech, click here.