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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

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Honorary Diggers of the Day - Wartime singers Sofia Vembo and Vera Lynn

Today we honor the singers of the Greek campaign - Sofia Vembo and Vera Lynn. Both Sofia and Vera were popular musical entertainers at the time of the Greek campaign.
Sofia Vembo had already released her famous recording of her anti-Mussolini song - Pedia Itis Ellados Pedia or Vazei o Dutse ti stoli tou (translated as Sons of Greece) - to give spirit to the Greek soldiers on the Albanian Front. Born in 1910 and a refugee from Gallipoli in Asia Minor, Sofia was very popular in Greece at the time - and would continue to rally the Greek people and its fighters throughout the war, broadcasting from Alexandria in Egypt. At the same time, she offered 2,000 gold pounds from her own fortune to the Hellenic Navy. Following the German invasion and occupation of the country in April 1941, she was transported to the Middle East, where she continued to perform for the Greek troops in exile.She became known as "Songstress of Victory" during the Greco-Italian War. Because of her role in the war and her efforts during the Axis occupation, she was awarded the rank of Major in the Greek Army.She was also an actress who remains a well-known singer in Greece and amongst the Greek diaspora. I had the privilege of touring an exhibition on Sofia's life at the War Museum in Thessaloniki.
Sofia Vembo exhibition, War Museum, Thessaloniki. Photo Jim Claven 2013

Memorial to Sofia Vembo, Village of Kalipoli Pella, northern Greece. Photo Jim Claven 2013

Similarly, Vera Lynn was a famous wartime singer in England whose songs of distant love and of home would hearten Allied soldiers and civilians across the world. In 1941 her song - A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square - was a major hit in Australia. During the war she toured Egypt, India and Burma, giving outdoor concerts for the troops. She was called "The Forces' Sweetheart"; the songs most associated with her are "We'll Meet Again" and "The White Cliffs of Dover".

Vera was born in East Ham, London, as Vera Margaret Welch. A singer since the age of 7, she adopted her grandmother's maiden name (Lynn) as her stage name and made her first recording in 1935. After the war she devoted much time and energy to charity work connected with ex-servicemen and other social causes. She is still held in great affection by veterans of the Second World War
Both singers gave heart to the thousands of Allied soldiers fighting on the Greek campaign front line.
Today we honor them.

To listen to Sofia Vembo, click here.
To listen to Vera Lynn, click here.

The words of Sofia Vembo's Sons of Greece are reproduced below:
Duce puts on his uniform
and his tall cap,
with all the feathers,
and one night with moon
he sets on to invade Greece,
the poor guy
On the mountains he meets with
our brave man, the evzon,
who shocks the master
the spaghetti eater.
Ah, Ciano, I 'll get mad Ciano,
who ordered me to get in mess with the evzons?
He sets off the next day
but he hears again "Aera"
from the evzon,
he walks road after road
and jumps the river;
he knows the job.
He receives the bullets like a hail storm from the evzon,
and changes always generals, to get his work done.
Ah, Ciano, I'll get mad Ciano
and send me quickly the black clothes, to wear them.
The new Napoleon sends
divisions of hungry men
up in the mountain,
only to meet with their devil
and our army drags
lots of prisoners.
And the poor Centaurs,
what a pity,
unfed and fainted
fall inside the water.
Ah! Grazzi, never come to me again, Grazzi,
because I 've sat on burning coals
They run like crazy towards the rocks
and either from us or from the Allies
they receive the kick,
and without many words
the Greek brave men have entered Korytsa.
The khaki has entered Argyrokastro
and there now a Greek flag is waving.
Ah! Ciano, I 'll die, Ciano,
because in a while I 'll lose Tirana too.
And the poor have suffered a big disaster,
and Rome awaits its turn.

The words of Very Lynn's A Nightingale sang in Berkeley Square are reproduced below:
When two lovers meet in Mayfair, so the legends tell
Songbirds sing. Winter turns to spring
Every winding street in Mayfair falls beneath the spell
I know such enchantment can be
Cause it happened one evening to me.
That certain night, the night we met
There was magic abroad in the air.
There were angels dining at the Ritz
And a nightingale sang in Berkeley Square
I may be right I maybe wrong
But I'm perfectly willing to swear
That when you turned and smiled at me
A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square
The moon that lingered over London town
Poor puzzled moon, he wore a frown
How could he know that we two were so in love
The whole damned world seemed up-side-down
The streets of town were paved with stars
It was such a romantic affair
And as we kissed and said good-night
A nightingale sang in Berkley Square
Our homeward step was just as light as the tap-dancing feet of Astaire
And like an echo far away
A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square
I know cause I was there that night in Berkeley Square
Songwriters: Maschwitz, Eric / Sherwin, Manning

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

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