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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 31 January 2015
16 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 31 JANUARY 2015 Discovering the Part 1 of a 3-part series Costas Mamalakis, former curator at the Historical Museum of Crete, is the founder of a remarkable new Battle of Crete tour experience - one that reveals hidden secrets of the Anzac story in Greece. Michael Sweet meets a man on a mission Every May, a few days before the official ceremonies begin for the anniversary of the Battle of Crete, Costas Mamalakis drives from Heraklion to Souda Bay with an unopened bottle of beer beside him. He makes this pilgrimage to the Allied War Cemetery at Souda, to place the bottle beside an Anzac grave; Plot 12, Row D - the last resting place of New Zealand Private LeTour Mollet 'Ted' D'Auvergne. Mamalakis - one of world's most knowledgeable experts on Crete's WWII history - came across D'Auvergne's story a few years ago - the Kiwi soldier who left a beer at his local pub to drink upon his return, but who never had the chance to savour it. The tale of how Ted D'Auvergne called into the Waihao Forks pub in New Zealand's South Island, on his way to war, is now legend. No-one is sure of the exact story, but it goes something like this. On the morning of 27th December 1939, it was Ted's last day of leave before embarking overseas. After saying his goodbyes to his family and posing for a few snaps, he headed to the hostelry where he was a regular patron, near the railway station. Thinking there might just be time for a couple of bevvies before catching the train to join his unit, he lined up two bottles of his favourite tipple - Ballins XXXX ale. The first he downed, but before he could start the second, the train whistle blew outside. Ted said his farewells, and as he did so, the publican placed the bottle on the shelf saying, "we'll have this one when you get home". Ted D'Auvergne never made it back. Mortally wounded by a German sniper near Maleme during the Battle of Crete, for days he was hidden and cared for by a 17-year-old Cretan called Yakovos Kalionzaki, until Ted died. The bottle - now enshrined in a glass case - is still there in the Waihao Forks pub - a small memorial, not just to Ted, but to all those who went away to war and never returned. Each year on Anzac Day, veterans and their families, and Ted's descendants, gather at the pub and a poppy is placed beside the bottle. in memory of Ted and thousands of others who fell in the corner of a foreign field. Costas Mamalakis has been honouring the memories of soldiers like D'Auvergne - and the Cretans who fought alongside them in WWII - since he was a child. Born in 1963 and raised in Heraklion, Mamalakis studied ethnology at the University of Munich. His arrival in Germany in the 1980s had an ironic start. "The taxi driver who picked me up from the airport was a former German paratrooper who had taken part in the invasion of Crete in the Rethymno sector," says Mamalakis as we take coffee near Heraklion's bustling Morosini Fountain Square. "I didn't tell him I was Cretan," he adds with a grin. So began an early chapter in Mamalakis' ongoing research into Crete's wartime history. To cut a long story short, he befriended the ex-paratrooper and was introduced to other German Fallschirmjäger veterans, with whom he corresponded for years after. Some gave him previously unknown, often shocking details, of actions by German troops during the battle and occupation and much of the information he would go on to publish. ng ps n he w go o pub In recent years most know of Mamalakis' work as a former curator of Modern History for the Historical Museum of Crete. Its permanent World War II exhibition is the result of his devotion to the subject and his own research. Arguably it presents the most profound insight into the island's wartime experience of any museum in the world. What makes it different from other exhibitions is its detail and editorial thoroughness. Shining out from Mamalakis' imaginative curation is the complexity of Crete's four-year-long resistance against Nazi Germany - from the initial invasion in May 1941 through the torment of occupation that would last (in the Chania area at least) until May 1945. Mamalakis describes the museum's exhibition as "an uneasy presentation", and that disquiet is key to his philosophy as a curator and historical commentator. While Crete's story in World War II is a story of good versus evil, a courageous struggle against a cruel oppressor, it is also a story of a people caught by chance in the jaws of a global cataclysm, where warring armies collided - with terrible consequences for civilians and soldiers alike. Crete at war is a story often of internal conflicts, tragedy and sometimes betrayal, as well as heroic courage and daring deeds. Subterfuge, sabotage, spies and double agents all take their place in Mamalakis' narrative, set against the majestic landscape that gave refuge to freedom's defenders. "I suppose my work has always been about finding out more, to achieve a deeper understanding of what happened in Crete between 1941 and 1945," says Mamalakis. "For years we have marked the Battle of Crete with ceremonies and parades. Perhaps it has been too painful to examine some aspects of the war and the resistance." Also painful, says Mamalakis, is the way many of the fallen from the battle who served with the Greek army have been left, ignored. "Hundreds of Greek soldiers and policeman who fought in the battle and were killed, were never given proper burials, families never found their loved ones. All these 'anonymous' fighters had a name and identity, and it's time we paid them the proper respect." Mamalakis has already identified scores of burial sites and has begun lobbying the local authorities to act. He brings the same passion and determination to his latest venture. Discover The Real Warpaths is a series of painstakingly researched day-tours that will be available from early 2015, with Mamalakis himself as expert guide and tour leader. Backed by Heraklion's licensed travel operator - and much respected shipping agent - A.P. Corpis & Company, the tours are set to add a new dimension to Crete's cultural tourism sector. With many of them focused on locations of particular significance to Anzac actions during and after the Battle of Crete, the aim is to reveal new aspects of the battle and its aftermath. "Not many know the incredible story of the Australians at Heraklion, for instance, and the 2/4 Infantry Battalion that defended the airfield," says Mamalakis. "The same is true of the remarkable Australian actions at Rethymno, where with Greek soldiers and civilians, they had the Germans pinned down, right up to the end. "On these tours I want to take people exactly to where these events took place, to find the many signs of the battle that still exist, if you know where to look." As an expert on the evacuation of hundreds of Anzac troops, weeks, months, and in some cases, years after the Battle of Crete, with Mamalakis the one day-tour will follow the trails of the soldiers on the run, and visit isolated beaches on the south coast where they finally left Crete. As a confidante g of the late Patrick Leigh Fermor - the et agent - et agen DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Anzac soldiers surrendering to German para- troopers during the Battle of Crete. PHOTO: THERISO NATIONAL RESISTANCE MUSEUM. The caique Escampador sits alongside the converted British trawler Hedgehog in a cove on the south coast of Crete circa 1942. These boats were used to bring in supplies to the resistance and evacuate Anzacs from Crete to Egypt. PHOTO: C.E. MAMALAKIS ARCHIVE.
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