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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

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Digger of the Day - Horsham's Private Syd Grant of the 2/8th Battalion and his escape from captivity today 75 years ago

Local villagers from Trachila who aided Syd Grant as he waited to be evacuated near Kalamata, April 1941. Syd Grant Collection.
Sydney Grant (known as Syd) was born in Horsham (Victoria) in May 1917. By 1939 Syd’s occupation was as a woolclasser. He was 22 years and 8 months old when he enlisted at Horsham in the 2nd AIF in December 1939. He served with the 2/8th Battalion, 6th Division Ammunition Company.
Syd and the Battalion took part in the early phase of the campaign in North Africa, capturing Bardia, Tobruk and Derna in January 1941 – great victories for the men of the 2nd AIF. Syd then sailed with the 2/8th from Alexandria to Greece on 11th March 1941.
Syd took part in the 2/8th campaign in Greece - serving at the battle of Vevi in April and the actions of the defensive withdrawal that followed – the Servia Pass, Kozani, Larissa, Thermopylae, Domokos Pass, Ellason, Lamia, Levadia, Corinth Canal to Kalamata.
As the main Allied evacuations from Kalamata drew to an end towards the end of April, Syd was temporarily made a Prisoner of War on the Kalamata beachfront.
But after 24 hours Syd and others managed to escape, eventually reaching to the village of Trachila 40-50 miles to the south east of Kalamata, where other Allied troops had gathered.
The villagers of Trachila welcomed and fed Syd and the other Allied soldiers with his party, hiding him in a local Greek Orthodox Church. in Syd's photograph above, Syd wrote that they were:
"Two of the many Greek girls who fed us with bread and water standing at the entrance of an old church at Trachila, Greece 30 April 1941."
Syd was eventually evacuated along with another 68 Australian soldiers (in a total of 110 Allied troops, including members of the Palestine Labour Corps by British naval vessels. Syd was embarked on the Destroyer HMS Hero at 2.30am on 1st May 1941. Others embarked aboard other vessels, including the HMS Kimberley.
Syd’s party arrived at Suda Bay on Crete. According to his memoirs, he spent a short time at Nea Khorion– as revealed in his photographs of the village - where he witnessed enemy bombardments. Syd was evacuated to Port Said arriving in early May, prior to the German invasion of the Island.
A young Catherine Bell with her sister standing next to the farm gate. Photo from Catherine Bell
Returning to Australia after the war, Syd named his soldier settlement farm in western Victoria simply "Kalamata", in remembrance of the people of Greece who supported and saved him in 1941.
If you would like to read more about Syd Grant, click here  to read the lovely article in Neos Kosmos by Helen Velissaris from last year.
Donation of the Syd Grant Photographic Collection
Thanks to Syd's daughter, Catherine Bell, for much of this information and permission to publish her father's photograph above. Later this year, Catherine will donate Syd's extensive WW2 photographic collection - including many of Greece and Crete - to the State Library of Victoria, as part of the 75th anniversary of the battle of Greece and Crete. Thank you Catherine.

Jim Claven
Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee
& Member, Battle of Crete and the Greek Campaign Commemorative Council

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