The ceremony took place on Tuesday 8th May 2018. This was attended not only by the Mayor, Panagiotis E. Nikas and members of the City Council but also Mr Konstantinos Cotsilinis, Honorary Consul General of New Zealand and Mr Andrea Biggi, Deputy Head of Mission, from the Australian Embassy, Athens.
Also a group from Israel attended, the Jewish Pioneer Corps whose ancestors fought in Greece as part of the British Expeditionary Corps. They were accompanied by Captain Zvika Shahar, Defence and Military Attaché of the Embassy of the State of Israel. Also present were military personnel, the town band, ex-pat friends, local people including a group of students and of course, our Man in Kalamata, and very good friend, Mr Nikos Zervis.
Janet Parkin gave the welcome introduction and passed on greetings from our President, Frank Gill . This was translated by Mr Kostas Kontothanasis, the Mayor’s Press and Public Relations Officer. The Mayor gave a speech, the content of which is below and at the end he paid a very pleasing tribute to Nikos Zervis.
“Dear representative of Australia, Dear representative of New Zealand, Dear representative of Israel, Greek officials, Dear representatives of the Brotherhood of Veterans, Dear representatives of Greek Diaspora organisations, Dear visitors from Israel, Australia and Great Britain, I welcome you all to Kalamata, on the occasion of today’s Service of Commemoration, in honour of the fighters and the victims of the Battle of Kalamata. Seventy seven years have gone by since April 28th, 1941, the time when 58,000 British, Australian, Jewish, Serbian, Greek, New Zealander and Cypriot soldiers, fought the final battle against the Germans, on mainland Greece, in an attempt to escape to Crete and Egypt. It is true that this important event does not occupy the place it deserves in the history of World War II, despite the books that have been written and the efforts of many veterans. Still, we must try to keep the memory of this event alive in our memory. We owe it to the fighters, we owe it to those who gave their lives in the great struggle for the freedom of all peoples. May their memory live forever! Finally, I would like to thank Mr. Nikos Zervis for his contribution in organizing this ceremony and for being the “bridge” with the Veterans.”
Laurel wreaths were laid by the Mayor and other dignitaries. Poppy tributes were laid by David Sanderson in memory of the Prisoners of War, Mrs Elizabeth Matthews on behalf of the Widows, Mr Roger Hadwin in memory of Deceased Members, Mr Doug (Buster) Beckett on behalf of the Brotherhood of Veterans of the 1941 Greek Campaign and Mrs Di Billinge on behalf of the expatriate community. The band played the appropriate national anthems. After the service we had refreshments in the park, hosted by the City Council. Once again, a very memorable and successful occasion.