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submitted by Neos Kosmos, Melbourne on 20.12.2012

Sydney Symposium reveals hidden history

Sydney Symposium reveals hidden history
Copyright (2012) Neos Kosmos

Anzac Greek connections re-appraised at 70th anniversary event

Photograph: Speakers and guests at the 70th Anniversary of Greek and Crete campaigns symposium in Sydney,including, from left to right: his excellency Mr Harris Dafaranos, Ambassador of Greece, Consul General of Greece, Vasilios Tollios, and Darren Mitchell, Director Veteran's Affairs, NSW Government.

Neos Kosmos, 18 Dec 2012


More than 170 people attended last weekend's Symposium held in Sydney to explore and re-evaluate the connections between Australia and Greece forged in WWII. Convenor Dr Maria Hill told Neos Kosmos that the event was undertaken to raise awareness of the Greek and Crete campaigns and highlight the latest research on the subject.

"It was organised to encourage further scholarship, inform the broader community, and to encourage the Federal government to consider striking a medal for the veterans who fought there," said the author and historian.

Opened by Chair of the Joint Committee for the Commemoration of the Anniversary of the Battle of Crete and Greek campaign - Mr James Jordan, the event was graced with the presence of many dignitaries including his excellency, Mr Harris Dafaranos, Ambassador of Greece. Speakers included author Professor Joy Damousi, Dr Brain Taafe, archaeologist Dr Michael Bendon and writer Susanna De Vries.

Also on the platform was Victorian MP John Pandazopoulos and Joint Committee member Nick Andriotakis. One of those in the audience was the celebrated Victorian author Gregory Day, whose new novel will explore the story of an Australian soldier hidden on Crete after the Allied surrender. Day has been working on the manuscript for three years and told Neos Kosmos that the symposium had been a valuable source of information, and had unveiled some new layers to the story of Anzac and British forces in Greece and Crete.

"It was very useful with such a variety of presentations," said the author, adding that his own particular interest lay in the cultural backdrop behind the Anzac story in Crete. "The story is immense and is particularly loaded. . You have a culture that goes back to the Minoan, Classical, Mythological period, interacting with a culture like Australia. "These soldiers from a young culture going to a very old culture, and the interchange that happens. "For a lot of the Australian soldiers the scales fell from their eyes - what it is to be a culture, what it is to be alive, and the nature of war."

The perfect source someone researching the subject, Day picked out New Zealand historian Ian Frazer's presentation as one of the most interesting in the day long event. Frazer - the son of an Anzac who went on the run in Crete - is the world's expert on the subject. "In history we look for the good stories; the feel-good connections, and of course it wasn't all like that in Crete. In Australia we're obsessed with creating positive legends," said Day. "Frazer's presentation struck an authentic note when he talked about the effect on the Cretan people of SOE [British secret service operations] during the occupation.

It was a very dangerous situation." Alf Carpenter, a 95-year-old veteran who fought in Greece and Crete with the 2/4th Infantry Battalion also attended the symposium. Carpenter applauded the organisation of the event. "It was well-run and they did a good job getting it all together," said the former RSM. Alf was based in Heraklion during the Battle of Crete and was evacuated just before it fell.

"The support we're getting from the Greek community is good, and it's important to keep things going this way," he said. "Somehow we have to get these stories through. The Greece and Crete campaigns was just seen as an offshoot. In my opinion it was just as important as the Gallipoli campaign as far as World War II was concerned".

Sydney-based Joint Committee member Nick Andriotakis said the symposium had been an unqualified success and has prepared the ground for new initiatives. "Our next step is to prepare for the Centenary of Anzac, where we and other organisations in NSW and Victoria, can come together to help commemorate and further recognise the contribution of the Anzacs in the Greek campaign and Battle of Crete.

"We'll also be continuing our campaign to persuade the Australian government to strike a medal for the Anzacs of the Greek campaign," said Mr Andriotakis.

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