|The Hellenic Anzac Memorial in the grounds of the Victorian Parliament. Photo Jim Claven 2017|
On the 25th May the Victorian Parliament honored the bonds between Greece and Australia - forged across two world wars - from Lemnos in 1915 to the battles of Greece and Crete in 1941 - and in the waves of post-war migration - with the planting of an olive tree and unveiling of a memorial plaque.
The idea for such a memorial emerged many years ago from a group of Victorian Parliamentarians who took part in one of my own Anzac Tours of Greece. This idea has now been realised by the work of the Victorian Parliamentary Friends of Greece, The Battle of Crete and Greece Commemorative Council and the Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee. Special tribute must be paid to the efforts of Mr Steve Dimopoulos MP, Mr Tony Tsourdalakis and Mr Lee Tarlamis for their efforts in creating this new lasting memorial.
The memorial was unveiled by the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, Lieutenant General Floros of the Hellenic Armed Forces and the Leader of the Opposition the Hon Matthew Guy, assisted by the Consul General of Greece, Ms Christina Simantiraki.
|Mr Tony Tsourdalakis, Ms Christina Simantiraki, Cr. Kostas Trigonis, Ms Christina Desporeris and Cr. Georgios Aerakis at the unveiling ceremony. Photo Jim Claven 2017|
Other dignitaries in attendance included the Hon Bruce Atkinson MP, President of the Legislative Council as well as two senior representatives of the Hellenic Armed Forces - Lieutenant General Konstantinos Floros (Deputy Chief of the Hellenic National Defence General Staff) and Lieutenant Colonel Christos Anastasiadis (Deputy Director of Public Relations Directorate of the Hellenic National Defence General Staff) - along with two municipal representatvires from Crete - Cr. Georgios Aerakis, (Municipality of Maleviziou, Iraklion, Crete) and Cr. Kostas Trigonis, (Municipality of Maleviziou, Iraklion, Crete).
|Ms Deb Stewart (second from right) and Ms Shirley Devery (at right) with other attendees inside the Victorian Parliament, prior to the unveiling event. Photo Jim Claven 2017|
The unveiling took place in presence of a number of descendants of Anzacs who had served in Greece across both world wars:
- Deb Elizabeth Stewart the grand-daughter of Sister Evelyn Hutt who served on Lemnos in 1915;
- Shirley Devery the daughter of Private Tom Devery who served in Greece in 1941; and,
- Peter Ford, the son of Frank Ford who also served in Greece in 1941.
|The Premier of Victoria, the Hon Daniel Andrews MP and Lieutenant General Konstantinos Floros perform the ceremonial planting of the memorial olive tree. Photo Jim Claven 2017|
The Olive Tree
The placement of an olive tree is important for a number of reasons.
The diggers and nurses who arrived in Greece commented on the olive trees of the land they had come to defend.
Diggers like Private Syd Grant remembered the support they received from the local Greek people when they arrived there in 1941. For Syd this included support during his time evading capture outside Kalamata and down the Mani.
He would return to Greece after the war and would name his farm in Victoria's western district "Kalamata" in honour of the Greek people.
He would also come all the way from Victoria's west to the Greek delicatessens of Melbourne's northern suburbs to buy his olives to remind him of that support.
Our new memorial Olive Tree in the grounds of Victoria's Parliament will grow and give fruit - another lasting memorial to the bonds between Greece and Australia through Anzac.
|The commemorative plaque. Photo Jim Claven 2017|
A plaque honoring the Hellenic link to Anzac and beyond
It was an honour of mine to draft the wording for the memorial plaque.
I was determined to include an historical phrase connecting Greece and Australia. I read these words in Bean's Gallipoli Mission many years ago and they came immediately to mind.
And how better to start than with a quotation from the works of Australia's famous war historian and founder of the Australian War Memorial, Charles Bean:
"They gave their shining youth, and raised thereby Valour’s own monument which cannot die."
These words are drawn from an Ancient Greek inscription relating to the valour of Greek soldiers who died at the Dardanelles in ancient times that had been inscribed on a slab of pentellic marble across both columns of a monument.
The monument inscription included the names of twenty-eight Athenians and others who fell defending Byzantium (later Constantinople) in a battle believed by historians to have taken place at the Dardanelles in 440 BC.
This monument was seen by some Australians at the end of the First World War as they visited the then National Museum at Athens.
The original Ancient Greek was translated by Christopher Brennan and then an Australian later produced this shortened version encapsulating the meaning and sense of the original.
For the great Australian historian of Anzac and founder of the Australian War Memorial Charles Bean the words evoked his feelings for that other battle on the Dardanelles 2,355 years later.
Bean recorded this story and these words in his account of his return to Lemnos and Gallipoli in 1919 as part of the Australian Historical Mission. This book is called Gallipoli Mission and it is from this memoir that I sourced the quotation.
And now it has pride of place in our new memorial in recognition of the Anzac's who fought in Greece - from Lemnos and Gallipoli to the battles of 1941.
I was also keen to include a Greek translation of these Australian words into modern Greek - reinforcing that we are commemorating an Australian connection to Greece. And also respecting the Greek origins of the sentiment.
|Some of the inscriptions on the Lemnos Gallipoli Memorial at Lemnos Square, Albert Park. Photo Jim Claven 2016|
We did the same at our Lemnos Gallipoli Memorial in Albert Park - with Lemnos and Gallipoli - and the villages and towns visited by the Anzac's on Lemnos - all inscribed into the memorial stone in the English and Greek languages
By doing so, the viewer is immediately aware that this is a memorial connecting Greece and Australia.
And a special thank you to Christina Despoteris for her excellent translation of Charles Bean's transcription into the modern Greek language.
|The Premier of Victoria the Hon Daniel Andrews MP addresses the assembly. Photo Jim Claven 2017|
Congratulations again to the Victorian Parliamentary Friends of Greece, supported by the Battle of Crete and Greece Commemorative Council and the Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee, on creating this great addition to Melbourne's commemorative heritage.
A big thank you to Steven Dimopoulos, Lee Tarlamis and Antonis Tsourdalakis - and all others involved - for their bring this proposal to a reality.
To read my media report in English click here and in the Greek language click here.
To read some media reports from Greece on the unveiling, click here..
Secretary, Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee
Member, Battle of Greece and Crete Commemorative Council