|Members of Melbourne's Peloponnese community including Mr Paul Sougleris, Mr Rico Soublis, Mr George Kallianis and Cr Jim Grivoskostopoulos with Mr Jim Claven and Ms Catherine Bell. Photo Jim Claven 2016|
The meeting was hosted by the Pam Messinian Society “Pappaflessas” and was attended many members of Melbourne’s Peloponnese community.
|Ms Catherine Bell, Cr Jim Grivoskostopoulos and a Pappaflessas member who witnessed the battle of Kalamata in April 1941. Photo Jim Claven 2016|
|Meeting advertisement by Paul Sougleris, 2016|
|Corinth Canal - the site of the famous battle in April 1941. Photo Jim Claven 2016|
Diggers like the Captain Edward “Weary” Dunlop, who would become a household name for his medical aid to those on the Burma-Thailand Railway, would make his way to Nafplio via Argos to await embarkation. Weary is remembered casually writing a letter home to his wife, sitting on a wall in Nafplio, as others dived for cover as German planes attacked. Australian nurses would be pictured resting in Argos’ cemetery, hiding from German air attacks.
|Diggers and other Allied soldiers with local civilians in Kalamata, April 1941. Photograph Private Syd Grant, 1941. Reproduced courtesy of Ms Catherine Bell.|
Mr Claven noted that two of the famous evacuees from Kalamata were Brigadier Stanley Savige and Horrie the Dog. Stanley was a Gallipoli veteran who had served on Lemnos in 1915 and had famously saved over 65,000 Christian refugees in northern Persia at the end of WW1. Horrie was the mascot of one of the Australian units serving in Greece. They had been evacuated from Kalamata on the Costa Rica, which would be sunk as it sailed to Crete. Horrie and the troops aboard the ship were all transferred to other ships. He would eventually be brought to Australia and end his days here.
|Illustration of Sergeant Hinton attacking the German position at the battle of Kalamata waterfront, April 1941|
|Women from the village of Trachila in the Mani helping Syd Grant and other Allied soldiers, April 1941. Photograph Private Syd Grant, 1941. Reproduced courtesy of Ms Catherine Bell.|
These diggers would never forget the generosity and bravery of the local of the region. Private Syd Grant would return to Australia and name his farm in the western district of Victoria Kalamata in their honour. And his photographs of the people of Kalamata and Trachila stand as a vivid record to their assistance to these diggers in need.
The region’s connection with the Anzacs would continue as the thousands left behind at Kalamata and the other embarkation beaches were captured and moved to the German prisoner of war camp established in Corinth’s old Greek Army barracks. Those captured sadly included thousands of Jewish members of the British Palestine Pioneer Corps. And late in 1941 and 1942, two Italian prisoners of war ships were torpedoed and those who survived were landed at Methone and Pylos respectively. One of those who survived – Australian Bill Rudd – lives today in Prahran.
|One of the main streets in Kalamata where the Anzacs walked in April 1941. Photo Jim Claven 2016|
Ms Catherine Bell, the daughter of Private Syd Grant, addressed the meeting recounting how her father had thankfully recorded his memories of the war for his family and future generations. Together with his hundreds of photographs they are a unique record of not only Kalamata’s but also Greece’s connection to the Anzacs in WW2.
Mr. Claven ended his talk with an appeal for the creation of an Anzac trail across the Peloponnese, linking the various sites he has identified as an aid to future commemorative tourists to the region. This could include the erection of memorial plaques or information boards or new displays at the region’s museums, such as the Kalamata war Museum.
|Ms Voula Pierakou-Vounelakis, witness to the battle of Kalamata and veteran of the resistance to the Axis occupation of Greece, Athens, May 2016. Photo Jim Claven 2016|
This documentary, memorial boards, displays – all linked by on-line maps - could be form an Anzac commemorative trail and finally honor the service of all these Australian and Allied soldiers who came to defend Greece alongside their Greek allies, as well as the bravery of the people of the region who braved terrible retribution to help them.
|Mr Paul Sougleris, Mr Jim Claven and Mr George Kallianis. Photo Jim Claven 2016|
He also thanked Mr George Kallianis, President of Papaflessas for hosting the meeting and Paul Sougleris for his assistance with the presentation. Mr George Kallianis thanked Jim and all those who attended, especially Ms Catherine Bell and her husband James, who had travelled all the way from Lorne on the Great Ocean Road to take part.
Early next month Catherine Bell will donated her father’s collection of photographs and associated memorabilia to Victoria’s State Library. These will join earlier donations to the Library by the family of Nurse Evelyn Hutt, a nurse who served on Lemnos in 1915. The State library is keen to expand its collection of photographs from both world wars, especially those relating to Greece.
Thanks to both of Melbourne's Greek community newspapers - Neos Kosmos and Ta Nea - for covering the meeting and presentation.
To view the report from Neos Kosmos (in the Greek language) click here.
To view the report from Ta Nea (in the Greek language) click here.
To view the report from Ta Nea (in the English language) click here.
Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee