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Our Committee is raising funds to create a lasting legacy telling the story of Lemnos' link to Gallipoli and Australia's Anzac story. Our projects include the Lemnos Gallipoli Memorial in Albert Park, the publication of a major new historical and pictorial publication and more. To make a donation you can also deposit directly by direct debit into the Committee's bank account: Account Name: Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee Inc; Bank: Delphi Bank; Account No: 204299-020 BSB No: 941300; Include your surname in the reference section. For further information on our legacy projects or to make a donation please contact either Lee Tarlamis 0411553009 or Jim Claven 0409402388M

Sunday, 14 December 2014

75th Anniversary - First Australian Troops Depart Port Melbourne for the Middle East and the Second World War

Women and children at the wharf in Port Melbourne farewell the advance party of the 6th Division. Second from right is Mrs Doreen Martin from Mildura who was fare-welling her husband, VX4768 Signalman Bernard Vincent Martin. Photographer Ted Cranstone. 15 December 1939. AWM image
75 years ago today the first departure of Australian troops for overseas service in the Second World War took place from Port Melbourne.They sailed aboard the former P&O Liner Strathallan.
These troops were the advance party of the Australian 6th Division - 47 officers and 58 other ranks, along with a party of New Zealand forces -25 officers and 88 other ranks. The latter had boarded in Sydney.
Leading the Australian contingent was Colonel George Vasey, later promoted Major General, and General Blamey. Both Blamey and Vasey would serve in the Greek campaign with the rest of the 6th Division, Vasey leading the Allied forces against the invading Germans at the Battle of Vevi in Greece in 1941. Vevi would be the first encounter between Australian and German troops since 1918.
As these first Australian troops departed from Port Melbourne they would be walking in the footsteps of their forebears, the diggers who left Port Melbourne for Lemnos and Gallipoli, for Egypt and Western France.
These troops would be the first of the over 993,000 Australians who served in the armed forces during the war. Some 27,073 would be killed in action or died on active service, 23,477 wounded and 30,560 taken prisoner, with 8,296 dying in captivity.
Lest we forget.
Jim Claven
Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee

Below are some images from the Australian troops departure in 1939 - leaving their camp at the Melbourne Showgrounds to Port Melbourne (reproduced courtesy of the Australian War Memorial).

Today's Media Release from Australian Veterans Affairs Minister:
The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Senator the Hon. Michael Ronaldson, paid tribute to the first Australian troops to leave our shores for service in the Second World War 75 years ago today.
On 15 December 1939, just over 100 Australians boarded the liner Strathallan bound for Palestine. Sailing with them was a small contingent of New Zealanders. Together they formed an advance guard, sent to prepare for the arrival of the main body of Australian and New Zealand troops the following month.
From their training grounds in Palestine, the Australians went on to the campaigns against the armies of Germany, Italy and Vichy France in North Africa, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and Greece and Crete. Later the survivors returned to the southern hemisphere to face the Japanese in South East Asia and the Pacific.
These first men to leave Australia were at the vanguard of Australia’s overseas effort during the Second World War. They and those who followed left knowing they had the support of the entire country.  With them went Australia’s best wishes and the nation’s prayers for their safe return.
Among the first personnel to leave Australia were some who would never return. In that war some 40,000 Australians lost their lives on active service. Many more suffered wounds and thousands endured years of captivity in Europe and later in Asia. 
The Anzac Centenary period is a time for all Australians to commemorate a Century of Service, and to honour the service and sacrifice of all those who have worn our nation’s uniform, including the more than 102,000 who lost their lives in Australia’s service.
We remember the efforts of all those who served during the Second World War, from those who first left these shores on December 15 1939, to those who defended the home front and others who served later in the war.  As a nation we honour them all.

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