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GREEK NEWS

Battle of Crete Commemorated in Australia With New Memorial

Battle of Crete
A memorial dedicated to those who fought in the Battle of Crete has been unveiled in Australia. Credit: Embassy of Greece in Australia / X

On Saturday, May 11, a new war memorial in Australia was unveiled in dedication to the remembrance of the Battle of Crete. The unveiling ceremony was conducted by the Premier of Western Australia, the Ambassador for the Hellenic Republic of Greece to Australia, and the Battle of Crete Memorial Committee of Western Australia.

The memorial was erected in King’s Park in Perth. According to official sources, the WA Government contributed $550,000 to its establishment.

In 1941, German forces conducted a significant airborne assault on the Isle of Crete, marking the first major airborne assault in history. This campaign resulted in defeat for the ANZAC, Greek, and British forces stationed on the island, but also in heavy losses for the Germans. After the battle, the occupying Germans had to contend with Greek guerrillas supported by Allied commandos who would frequently raid German military positions.

Με μια λαμπρή τελετή έγιναν, το Σάββατο 11 Μαΐου στην Πέρθη, τα αποκαλυπτήρια του πρώτου στην Αυστραλία μνημείου αποκλειστικά αφιερωμένου σε Αυστραλούς & Έλληνες που αγωνίστηκαν και θυσιάστηκαν για την υπεράσπιση της Κρήτης το 1941

📸 Αρχιεπισκοπή Αυστραλίας pic.twitter.com/LSrpXxMylc

— Greece in Australia (@EmbassyOfGreece) May 12, 2024

Australia’s new memorial commemorating the Battle of Crete

The ceremony to unveil the new memorial was well-attended by several prominent figures, both from the local Greek diaspora community and the Australian government, as well as by those with a personal connection to the Battle of Crete.

His Eminence Archbishop Makarios of Australia delivered the keynote speech, highlighting the timeless significance of freedom and the sacrifices made to protect it during the Second World War.

Arthur Leggett, a Western Australian and one of the two surviving veterans of the Battle of Crete, attended the dedication ceremony. The 105-year-old veteran was captured by German paratroopers during the battle and endured over four years in a prisoner of war camp.

The memorial was crafted by Smith Sculptors, a team based in Gidgegannup specializing in creating memorials, such as the iconic HMAS Sydney II memorial in Geraldton. Located in the Saw Avenue precinct of Kings Park, the memorial stands near the Tobruk memorial.

Comments by Roger Cook, Premier of Western Australia

“This monument commemorates the courage, sacrifice, and commitment of military personnel as well as the people of Crete who risked, or gave their lives, to help our troops,” said Roger Cook, the Premier of Western Australia.

“Western Australians and visitors now have a dedicated location where they can pay their respects and acknowledge the sacrifices made during, and in the aftermath of, the Battle of Crete,” Mr Cook continued. “My Government is proud of its significant contribution to help establish the memorial.”

The Battle of Crete

The Battle of Crete will remain forever in military history as the scene of the largest German airborne operation of the Second World War. In Greek history, it also serves as yet another chapter exemplifying the bravery and ultimate triumph of the Hellenic spirit.

Crete was targeted by the Germans because of the British airfields on the island, which were more than capable of striking the vital Ploesti oil fields in Romania. Hitler’s forces needed all the oil they could get for their impending assault on Russia.

The battle, which started on May 20th and ended on June 1, 1941, was dubbed “The Graveyard of the Fallschirmjäger” (the German parachutists known as ”Sky Hunters”). Although the German forces ultimately prevailed, it was an extremely costly victory, with nearly 4,000 German troops killed and 1,500 wounded in the first three days of the assault.

Between 4,000 and 6,000 Allied personnel were killed in the battle and over 500 Greek civilians were executed.

The German Air Ministry was alarmed by the high number of transport aircraft lost in the battle. German General Kurt Student, reflecting on the paratroopers’ heavy casualties, concluded after the war that Crete signaled the end of airborne insertions as a feasible tactic to enter enemy territory.

Hitler, believing that airborne forces had lost their element of surprise, decided that the days of the airborne corps were over. He directed that paratroopers should be used as ground-based troops in future operations, particularly in the Soviet Union.

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