|Hawthorn FC player Bombardier Leo (Gus) Young, AIF, who died during the battle of Crete. AWM|
2016 will see the 75th anniversary of the battle of Crete and Greek campaign.
One of the aspects of this campaign was the enlistment of sportsmen into the AIF that served during the campaign. The campaign would see the formation of the 2nd Anzac Corps - and the first time that the Anzacs walked on Greek soil since the service of the 1st Anzacs at Lemnos and in the Salonika campaign.
Amongst the over 17,000 Australian soldiers who served in Greece and Crete in April and May1941 were many sportsmen - cricketers, footballers of all codes and others.
Weary Dunlop was one of the famous rugby union players to serve in Greece and Crete in 1941, taking part in the evacuation and setting up a field hospital at Nafplio under German aircraft attack. The famous cricketer Keith Miller served as a fighter pilot on the western front in the Second World War. One of his famous quotes is reproduced below:
Over 300 of these diggers would die during the campaign - killed in action, died of wounds or missing presumed dead.
|Pre-war VFL Footy Record - 1938. Web|
|Essendon Members Season Ticket, 1941. Web|
Three of these Australians who never made it back to their loved ones in Australia were Australian Rules footballers (having played games for teams in then VFL).
Every year the AFL honours the service of Australian service personnel with its Anzac Day game - at the MCG and in Tasmania.
Next year - the 75th anniversary of the battle of Greece and Crete - these three diggers should be especially honoured by the AFL and their AFL teams.
This is some of the story of the three Aussie Rules footballers who fell in the battle to defend Greece and Crete against the Axis invasion.
Lance Bombardier John (Jack) Montague Drake VX9796
Born Perth, Jack Drake enlisted at Hawthorn and served with the AIF's 2/2 Field Regiment (Artillery).
Brallos Pass – 1941, AWM
Brallos Pass, Jim Claven Photo 2013
Jack is buried at Phaleron Military Cemetery, Athens.
He played for Hawthorn in the VFL, in the 1926 season.
|Grave stone of Lance Bombardier Jack Drake, Phaleron Military Cemetery. Photo Liza Koutsaplis 2015|
Phaleron Military Cemetery, Athens. CWGC
Bombardier Leo (Gus) Young VX48662
Born at Heyfield in country Victoria, Gus Young enlisted at Caulfield. His photograph from his AIF paybook is reproduced above.
|Members of Leo Young’s unit, the 2/3 Anti-Aircraft Regiment, at Maleme Crete, 18th May 1941. AWM|
He was killed in action while at sea during the battle of Crete on 29th May 1941 - presumably during the evacuation of the Island.
He is listed on the Memorial to the missing at Phaleron Military Cemetery, Athens.
Gus also played for Hawthorn in the VFL.
Pilot Officer Beresford Stanley (Beres) Reilly, 454 Squadron, RAAF
Born in Clifton Hill, Beres Reilly lived and was brought up in Footscray prior to his enlistment into the RAAF.
|RAAF Martin Baltimore Light Bomber – this was the type of aircraft plane that was flown by Beres Reilly when he was shot down over Crete. AWM|
|Martin Baltimore aircraft of No. 454 Squadron RAAF preparing to take off from their base at Gambut, Libya, April 1943. Beres Reilly would have flown from this base to Crete. AWM|
He was killed during low level bombing run over central Crete (near Iarapatra) on 23rd July 1943. He was aged 28.
|El Alamein Military Cemetery, Egypt. CWGC|
Played for North Melbourne, Melbourne and St Kilda in the VFL.