Military History Tours On Tour - ANZAC Day in Athens 7 May 2012
Well we are now in Crete and having sailed across the sea as did our men and women who were lifted off Greece by the Navy.
Prior to boarding the ferry we were treated to dinner at a restaurant near the harbour and with us, making it a real family affair, was Maria who runs XTTravel that works with us an arranges everything in Greece and Crete, Maria also brought the sweets with her. Next was the Mother and Father of our incredible guide, Elena and also the wife and daughter of our erstwhile wise driver and coach Captain Anthony. This is how our tour has been able to develop over the years with this family of support to that role of remembering the men and women who tried to stem the German intrusion into the Greek people.
We had breakfast at a wonderful hotel in Platanais when we went ashore, the restaurant of the hotel was right on the water and this was a wonderful introduction to our time in Crete. After breakfast we headed to Maleme to visit the German War Graves on hill 107 and to hear how the ineptitude of the senior New Zealand Commanders, Brigadier and above, had ensured that this campaign was lost. The fighting soldiers could have won this campaign if they were commanded by more appropriate senior officers. It is quite sad to discuss this failure when it need not have been.
We proceeded on our way and the next two sites that we visited were in fact victories but one has to do more that just win the fight, one must win the battle. Galatas and 42 street site are famous for the individual bravery and tenacity that was shown by the by Kiwi soldiers when released from the deadening hand of his commanders. Both actions culminated in an heroic charge that carried all before them, but it was too late to save the campaign. They only made the Germans pay a bigger price for their victory.
Continuing on our programme we visited Suda Bay Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery where we met two Kiwis who were visiting the cemetery. We asked Ross and Vicki Lienert to join us in a small service. They did so and following our wreath laying service, Melva again sang for us, Abide with me, and then following the Australian National Anthem, Ross and Vicki led us in the New Zealand National Anthem. I believe it will be a moment that they will reflect on for some time.
Elena and I posed behind the grave of JDS Pendlebury a very noted archaeologist who had been responsible for many works before the war. He was killed on an SOE mission where his knowledge of Greece and Crete was invaluable to the unit and for future forays into occupied Greece and Crete.
Following our service at the cemetery we adjourned to a local restaurant where the adventure continued. When various dishes arrived, they were inadvertently mixed up and members found that they were not eating what they thought. This was eventually sorted and we were able to move the 60 km to our hotel in Rethymon from where we will start our adventure in the morning.