Craig Family Memorial Window, Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Ararat. Photo Ian Bryant 2015
Today we honor Ararat's Private Felix Craig who was killed at Pharsala defending the Allied transport columns as they fell back through central Greece.
Ararat's Felix Craig
Born in Queensland, Felix was a 25 years old accountant living with his family in Ararat when he enlisted into the Australian Army Service Corps as a driver at the South Melbourne Recruitment Centre on 23rd October 1939.
Felix was part of the great column of Allied transports bringing soldiers and supplies back from the front-line as the Allies withdrew to new defensive positions further south.
And so it was that he drove to Farsala on the plains of Thessaly on the 18th April. As Felix drove through its towns and villages, I hope that he might have enjoyed some of the areas famed Halva.
The roads around Farsala were congested with troops and civilians and under German air attack. As the rain abated and the skies cleared, these attacks continued across the long Allied line of retreat. Vehicles carrying weary fighting troops moving south were locked in traffic snarls with supply trucks heading north and fleeing civilians clutching the few belongings they could carry. All this tested the nerves of the army drivers.
On the morning of the 18th April the road at Farsala was rocked by a great explosion. German aircraft had hit a truck loaded with explosives, creating a massive crater and blocking the road south with up-rooted concrete and destroyed heavy vehicles. Australian sappers and Cypriot pioneers set to repairing the road. Photographs from the time record the devastation of this explosion.
Felix is killed
And it was on this very day at Farsala that Felix demonstrated the bravery that would earn him posthumous honour. As twelve dive bombers attacked the Allied column of trucks, Felix showed great courage in firing at the attacking planes with his machine gun, creating a diversion which would allow the convoy to escape unscathed. Drawing their fire and making himself a target, Felix was killed. Just as at Farsala, two millennia before, another soldier, the Roman veteran centurion Crastinus fell in an act of bravery.
While he was mentioned in dispatches, some historians argue a Victoria Cross would have been more appropriate. The local Nambour newspaper recorded that Felix “…had gone out like the crusaders of old and had stayed by his gun until the end.” He was buried at nearby Volos and re-buried at Phaleron War Cemetery on 24th March 1945.
Ararat’s Holy Trinity Church
The Holy Trinity Anglican Church is not on the usual Anzac trail. But it should be. As you walk into this little bluestone church on Ararat’s High Street and what strikes you is the beautiful and unique stained glass memorials. And one of these memorials symbolizes one of the connections between Ararat and Greece.
For this memorial commemorates the memory of a young digger from the parish who fought and died in Greece in 1941. Along with his brother Felix who died locally, the memorial is dedicated to Private Felix Craig. Erected by his father and dedicated in December 1944, the window features a crusader and the inscription for Felix “killed in action in Greece 18th April 1941”. The inscription takes me back to my researches on the battlefields of Greece and Crete.
Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee
& Member, Battle of Crete and the Greek Campaign Commemorative Council