Battle of Crete commemorated

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Andrew Ragless (author), LSIS Justin Brown (photographer)

Location(s): Stavromenos, Greece, Rethimno, Greece, Souda Bay, Greece

Australia's Federation Guard members rest on arms during the service at the Hellenic - Australian park in Rethymno, part of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Crete Commemoration services held across the Island of Crete. (photo: LSIS Justin Brown)
Australia's Federation Guard members rest on arms during the service at the Hellenic - Australian park in Rethymno, part of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Crete Commemoration services held across the Island of Crete.

The immense courage and sacrifice by Australian and New Zealand troops fighting in the Battle of Crete has been remembered in the battle’s 75th anniversary commemorations.
 
Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett joined with Principal Chaplain Stuart Hall and members of Australia's Federation Guard in Greece to commemorate one of the most decisive battles of the Second World War.
 
Approximately 6,500 Australian troops took part in the desperate fight to save Crete in May 1941.
 
The island’s Greek and Commonwealth garrison was attacked by German airborne troops who held a massive advantage in logistic and air support.
 
Facing a highly trained and motivated enemy, they fought desperately for two weeks, providing a fierce resistance.
 
By the end of May, organised resistance had broken down. Germans hunted small groups of Allied soldiers, cut off from evacuation facilities and desperately trying to evade capture.
 
Vice Admiral Barrett said the troops left behind owed their freedom, and often their lives, to the Cretan people who sheltered them.
 
“Many an exhausted, and often wounded, British, Australian or New Zealand soldier waited in a farm building, or a church, till darkness fell when the members of the Cretan family would bring him food from the farm kitchen,” he said.
 
“The local people did all this knowing that the penalty for caring for these men was execution at the hands of the German occupiers.  
 
“This cold courage in the face of disaster is a national epic which all Greeks should remember with great pride.”
 
From 29 May to 1 June the Royal Navy evacuated around 10,000 Allied soldiers from Sfakia on the south coast of Crete.
 
Royal Australian Navy cruiser HMAS Perth and her destroyers Nizam and Napier took part in the evacuation and were bombed by the Luftwaffe.
 
Perth
 was hit and Australian sailors killed.  The Royal Australian Navy ships fought back, and were fortunate to survive to fight again another day.
 
Vice Admiral Barrett said of those who lie in the Commonwealth War Cemetery at Suda Bay, we owe our affectionate remembrance and deep respect.
 
“On behalf of the Australian Defence Force and last veterans of the Battle for Crete, and their families here with us, and in Australia, I say thank you to the indomitable people of this famous and heroic island.
 
“Your courage has never been forgotten in Australia and it never will be.”
 

The commemorations featured the inauguration of a memorial on '42nd Street' at the Preveli Monastery.
 
On 42nd Street, near Suda Bay, two companies of the Australian 2/7th Battalion with three New Zealand Battalions, including the 28th (Maori) Battalion, had grown weary of retreating and being attacked from the air. 
 
As the German Alpine troops approached their positions they fixed bayonets, charged and drove them back for most of a mile inflicting heavy casualties.
 
The charge was a rare occasion in the so-called Greek campaign in which Anzac troops, fighting side by side had the Germans on the run.