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submitted by Kytherian World Heritage Fund on 26.04.2010

The Greek Military Cross awarded to Oswald Pearce

The Greek Military Cross awarded to Oswald Pearce
Copyright (2010)

Anzacs of `second Gallipoli' seek restitution

Article from: The Australian

Apr 22, 2010 10:30am

ANZACS from the forgotten Greek campaign are seeking belated recognition

On the 21st April, 2010, the Kytherian World Heritage Fund staged a function at NSW Parliament House featuring Maria Hill's book, Diggers and Greeks. "Ossie" was the special guest.

Oswald Pearce, 91, is one of the forgotten Anzacs. And if he has retained a rapid-fire sense of humour in his twilight years, it is not enough to mask a grievance that stretches back more than half a century.

"The Brits, they just dropped us in it," says Mr Pearce, a widower from Dobroyd Point, in Sydney's inner west. "But no one really knows anything about it."

"Ossie" Pearce was a sergeant in the 2/1st Field Regiment of the Australian 6th Division, which had been dispatched to northern Greece in April 1941 to confront the Germans. The campaign marked the reformation of the Anzacs, with Australians posted alongside New Zealanders in combat for the first time since war had been waged with a crumbling Ottoman Empire 26 years earlier. And it would prove every bit as suicidal.

Inspired by Winston Churchill to prove to the US that Britain stayed loyal to its non-commonwealth allies, and thus convince the US to join the war, the conflict lasted barely two months. Men with rifles were forced to oppose Panzer tank units and fleets of bombers. Three divisions versus more than 10. It was a fighting retreat from the start, first to the ports of southern Greece and then to Crete.

"A couple of times, there we were, an artillery unit without any guns," Mr Pearce laughs. "We were up against it."

In all, about 6200 Australians were captured as prisoners of war -- representing 83 per cent of all Australians held by Germany and Italy during World War II.

To add insult to injury, British Field Marshal Henry Maitland Wilson then ordered that no Australian should receive military honours for service at the Aegean battlefront. So even though Greece awarded Mr Pearce and his fellow Diggers the Greek Military Cross for their service, the Anzacs would not be recognised by their own governments.

Mr Pearce has twice written to federal defence ministers asking for this campaign to be recognised. Twice his pleas have been ignored. But for the 18 "forgotten Anzacs" from this campaign who are still alive today, there may yet be hope.

Historian Maria Hill has released a new book, Diggers and Greeks, and she is now marshalling her own campaign to have these veterans finally and formally recognised with a new medal, the Greek Star.

Article from: The Australian

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