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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

The AIF and Lemnos

Group portrait of unidentified men who remained on the Gallipoli Peninsula with the 16th Battalion until relieved and moved to the Greek island of Lemnos. October 1915. Australian War Memorial image C00499
The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzac) was the military formation created in 1914 comprising Australian and New Zealand troops. Its first military engagement in the Gallipoli campaign saw it sail through the Aegean to the Island of Lemnos.

The first contingent of the AIF to land on Lemnos did so on 4 March 1915, having departed from Egypt. This comprised the 3rd Infantry Brigade, an engineer company, a field ambulance, a casualty clearing station, the brigade’s transport and part of a field bakery. However due to the lack of water on the island, the brigade was removed from shore after four days to stay on the ships in Mudros Harbour, with only a battalion billeted on the island in a supply role.

Eventually two massive tent cities were established around the Harbour at Mudros in 1915. The main Australian camp “Mudros West” was near Portianou. The British and French Camps at ”Mudros East” were located on the flat land south east of Mudros Village. The military hospitals on Lemnos could accommodate 3,000 casualties in basic conditions – mattresses on the ground, with limited water and sporadic electricity.
The AIF underwent a rigorous training program at Lemnos in preparation for the Gallipoli landing, practicing beach landings and dashes to the low hills near the shore.

On 24th April the 1st Australian Brigade moved out of Mudros Harbour to the Bay of Purnea on the island’s north, and was joined there by most of the 2nd Brigade, and the following morning the Australians landed at Gallipoli. Before leaving Lemnos the Anzac’s were addressed by General Birdwood who told the troops that the eyes of the whole world would be on them.

Lord Kitchener and General William Birdwood passing through Mudros in a vehicle 10 Nov 1915 Australian War Memorial image G00568

Greek civilians from Lemnos provided support to the Allies at Gallipoli, with their donkeys as water-carriers, ferrying in supplies in small boats and operating a canteen on the landing beach. For example when the 2nd Brigade landed at Cape Hellas on 6th May, Greek porters were on the beach, unloading stores from the pontoons under enemy shellfire. Australian troops billeted on the island during transit to Gallipoli were served by the Army‘s Field Butchery, with fresh meat purchased from the islanders and butchered by local Greeks.

As the main transit point for Australian troops on their way to Gallipoli throughout the campaign, Lemnos would see thousands of soldiers coming and going through its harbours on the way to the battlefield. Lemnos also received thousands of troops returning from the Dardanelles either injured seeking medical treatment in the islands military hospitals or merely for short periods of rest and recreation at the various troop camps or in the villages across the island. 
Australian soldiers just arrived from Gallipoli to the rest camp at Sarpi Australian War Memorial image J01601

Troop camps were dotted across the island, such as the camp at Sarpi. During rest periods troops would leave the camps to buy eggs, grapes and figs from the local Greek villagers. The YMCA provided entertainment facilities for the troops during their rest periods on Lemnos, including concerts attended by the Australian nurses. Anzac battalions are reported as having played cricket matches on the island, with nurses joining the spectators. At Therma on the Island – just 4 km from the troop rest camps - many troops availed themselves of the local natural hot spring bath-house. It became one of the most frequented “resorts” on the island.

Conditions in the troop camps were often inadequate, with General Monash actively seeking to improve the situation, in terms of the lack of tents and field kitchens. He was particularly scathing of the headquarters staff quartered on the SS Aragon in Mudros Harbour, described by one author as “a floating palace ... costing the British taxpayer $35,000 per month”.

In early December 1915, the Australian brigades moved into camps in the western hills of Lemnos. Between 4th and 20th of December, the 1st and 2nd Australian Division’s (comprising 5,965 and 7,209 men respectively) were based at camps at Sarpi, and the Australian and New Zealand Division at a camp at East Mudros. 

The surviving members of the Australian and New Zealand Division under canvas at Sarpi after 5 months in trenches Australian War Memorial image J06500

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