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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 12 May 2018
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 12 MAY 2018 21 GREECE Kalamata’s Greek Campaign commemorations expanded Jim Claven and the mayor of Pylos, Dimitiris Kantafaris, following the unveiling of the Ninio Bixio Tragedy Memorial at Pylos. This year's Battle of Kalamata commemorations held in Kalamata were really impressive. Culminating in the annual commemorative service held at the Greek Campaign memorial near the harbour, the events included a battlefield walk and a book launch. Australian Embassy representative Lousi Kalfagian addresses the assembly. plaque unveiled at a lovely prominent site, visible as one enters the town. Recognising the British contingent affected by the tragedy at Methone, Janet Parkin, secretary of the British Greek Campaign Veterans Brotherhood read the ode and the Brotherhood's Buster Beckett laid a wreath on behalf of the Memorial Organising Committee. The service at Methone was followed by my presentation on both tragedies at Methone's Cultural Centre. I presented a prerecorded congratulatory message from Bill Rudd, produced by Paul Sougleris and Nikita Ballas. Those present were moved by Bill's words and his thanks. The commemorative services ended with a lunch attended by dignitaries. Mayor Kantafaris not only committed to holding annual services at both memorials but has announced his commitment to ensure that the region takes part in our proposal for a First and Second World War Anzac Heritage Trail across Greece, linking Lemnos, Salonika, through central Greece to the Peloponnese, and across the Aegean and Crete. In my addresses, I commended Melbourne's Papaflessas and Navarino Brotherhood's for their commitment to realising Bill Rudd's dream. Without their support these memorials would not have been realised. And of course, Dimitiris Kafantaris, the mayor of Pylos-Nestor and his municipality, who have been unwavering in their support. On a personal note, I would like to thank George Iliopoulos, Paul Sougleris, John Mitsakos, George Saratsiotis, Rita L'Ambrosia, Nikita Ballas and all at Papaflessas and Navarino for their active support for this important Australian Greek heritage project. And thanks to Eleni Kazani and Helen BD from the municipality for their work in putting together a great event. I look forward to working with the municipality of Pylos-Nestor and others across Greece, along with supporting organisations in Australia, to build Greece's Anzac Heritage Trail, incorporating locations connected with both world wars. This trail aims to link existing memorials, erect new ones and assist commemorative visitors following Greece's WWII and Anzac trail. And thereby we hope to assist Greece and its people by boosting tourism visitation. * Jim Claven is a freelance writer, trained historian and member of the Battle of Crete and Greece Commemorative Council. He visited Pylos and Methone with the support of Melbourne's Papaflessas and Navarino Brotherhoods. The free battlefield walk was organised and conducted by local historical heritage activists, led by Panagiotis Andrianopoulos, Vasilis Bakopulos, and Sotiris Theodoropoulos. Thirty participants including the deputy head of mission at the Australian Embassy in Greece Andrea Biggi, and Honorary Consul of New Zealand to Greece Costa Cotsilinis, took part in the walk along Kalamata's beachfront Navarino Street. As we walked along, Vasilis pointed out the key features of the Battle of Kalamata that took place in the same street 77 years ago. It was along this street that Red Cliffs' Captain Albert Gray led one of the Allied assaults on the German defensive position at the end of the street. Simultaneously, New Zealand Sergeant Jack Hinton was leading another force along streets parallel to Navarino Street, attacking the Germans from side streets. These brave Allied troops overwhelmed the German force and reclaimed Kalamata for the Allies. Walk participants were intrigued to see images taken by German troops after the final fall of Kalamata, showing the wreckage of the battle – with Vasilis pointing out the locations shown in the archival images. The walk ended at a cosy local kafenion, not far from the Greek Campaign Memo- rial, where we were privileged to attend the launch of Haralabos-Dimitris Gounelas' new book New Zealanders in Defence and Greek Partisan Movement 1941–45. The result of years of research in Greece, London, and New Zealand, this new book will be essential reading for all those interested in the 1941 Greek campaign. I look forward to its translation into English. The book was launched by Mr Biggi, Mr Cotsilinis and myself. The annual commemorative service was held on the following day, 8 May. The service was conducted by the Municipality of Kalamata, in collaboration with the British Brotherhood of Veterans of the Greek Campaign 1940-41. Along with diplomatic representatives of Australia and New Zealand, this year saw the participation of the Israeli Embassy, represented by their military attaché, honouring the service of the thousands of Jewish volunteers who served in the British Army's Palestine Labour Corps in the Greek campaign. Congratulations go to Talya Klayner Dayagi and her voluntary association of Palestine Labour Corps descendants for their amazing work to ensure the service of these soldiers in the Greek campaign is not forgotten. Over 100 people attended the commemorative service, including many locals. Among the throng were people who had personally witnessed the day when the Germans came to Kalamata. One of these was Leonidas, who, as a young boy witnessed the execution of British prisoners by German troops at the spot where the Greek Campaign Memorial now stands. Voula Mitsakos from Melbourne translated Leondias' emotional story. He is keen to impress upon me his love of the Australians who came to his city in 1941. Another is an elderly lady from Exchori in the Mani. Having spent many years in Melbourne before returning to her village, she recounts her memories of the impact of the war on her village. She tells of the hiding of Allied soldiers who were on the run from the Germans after the fall of Kalamata and who she met up with were some of these same soldiers when they returned years later after the war – including British veteran Jock Watt. The service included addresses by the mayor of Kalamata and Janet Parkin on behalf of the British Greek Campaign Brotherhood. A Hellenic armed forces unit attended as the representatives of the military, along with a number of Hellenic armed forces commanders and officers. The mayor of Kalamata made particular reference to the attendance of local historian Nikos Zervis who witnessed the war as a young boy and has written a number of excellent historical publications on the history of Kalamata and the war, including one on the Battle of Kalamata in 1941. He has worked with the British Brotherhood for many years, supporting their commemorative activities in Kalamata. Andrea Biggi, as the senior diplomatic representative, commenced the wreath laying, followed by Costa Cotsilinis, the Kalamata mayor, representatives of the regional government, representatives of the British Brotherhood and individual descendants of British veterans. As part of the service, I had the honour to lay a wreath on behalf of Melbourne's Battle of Crete and Greece Commemorative Council. Amongst the others laying wreaths were Magda Triantafilopoulou, Maria Grambas and Lela Soublis – representing Melbourne's Panpyliaki Brotherhood Navarino, the Pammessinian Brotherhood Papaflessas Australia and the Pan-Australian Federation of Messinian Organisations respectively. John Pandazopoulos, former MP and Secretary-General of the World Hellenic Inter-Parliamentary Union attended the event and also laid a wreath. In conversation with historian Mr Zervis, I lamented the fact that his important book is only available in the Greek language. As a volume devoted to the story of the battle of Kalamata, drawing on archival sources – including in Germany – Mr Zervis' book would be an excellent resource for an English speaking audience. I would really encourage all Australians interested in our Anzac heritage to visit Kalamata and the regions Anzac and WWII related sites in future years. Not only are the local events expanding and becoming increasingly impressive, but the identification and commemorations of Anzac-related sites is expanding across the region sand Greece. When you think of Greece do not just think of beaches, sun and ouzo – but think of connecting to the combined Australian-Hellenic heritage through the stories and locations of the Anzacs in Greece across both world wars. Hellenic Armed Forces representatives at the Kalamata commemorations. Jim Claven with local historian Nikos Zervis, Barry Parkin, and Janet Parkin of the British Brotherhood.
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