Successful 78th anniversary UK reunion held at Lichfield 7th September 2019

We had a very good turn out, with about 50 people attending the service – which, due to the lovely weather, we were able to hold in the Greek Grove.

Janet Parkin, our Secretary, gave the welcome speech in which she reiterated how important it was, 78 years after the 1941 Greek Campaign, to remember  and commemorate it.

We were very pleased that Frank Gill, our President, who celebrated his 100th birthday in July, was able to join us. Frank took the opportunity to say a few words, including the fact that he had been quite overwhelmed by the number of  cards and tributes he had received for his birthday. He thanked everyone from the bottom of his heart and said he was truly moved and very grateful to everyone.

We were delighted to welcome Captain Athanasios Dimitriou, the Greek Defence Attaché, and to welcome back representatives from Australia and New Zealand who had attended in 2018 – Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Evans, Department of Defence, Australian High Commission and Major Chris Shaw, New Zealand Defence Staff.

We were also very pleased to welcome, once again, Mrs Dora Cooper, 104 years old.  Dora is the widow of L/Cpl Francis Cooper of the 4th Q.O. Hussars, PoW, Stalag 18A.  Dora  was accompanied by her son Cyril.

Father John (Nankivell) from the Greek Orthodox Church of the Nativity of the Mother of God in Walsall  conducted the service – which, as usual,  went very well.  Four others from his congregation attended and assisted. As  usual their singing was beautiful and added to the occasion.

Four standards were carried – thank you to Phil Evans, Paul Hadwin, Colin Pleavin and David Sanderson.

In addition to the wreaths laid by our special guests, see above, poppy wreaths were also laid by Frank Gill – in memory of Fallen Comrades;  Buster (Doug) Beckett – Prisoners of War;  Mary Peterkin – Deceased Members and Mark Buttery on behalf of the Brotherhood.  Geoff Swinnerton gave the oration.  Len Cook, bugler, played the Last Post and Reveille – a stalwart who has been doing this for us for many years – and Barry Parkin acted as Parade Marshall.   Many thanks to you all.

78th service of commemoration held in Kalamata

Our 78th anniversary service was held on Tuesday 14th May 2019.  The Mayor was unable to attend the service but was represented by the President of the Municipal Council, Mr Pavlos Bouzianis. Also in attendance was the Defence Attaché from the British Embassy in Athens, Captain Tim Ferns; the Serbian Ambassador Mr Dusan Spasojevic and the Honorary Consul of New Zealand, Mr Constantinos Kotsilinis.  In addition, we were pleased to welcome military personnel, the town band, members of the ex-pat community and a group of school children.

Janet Parkin gave the welcome introduction stating once again, that the sacrifices made by our fathers and grandfathers should not and must not be forgotten. Janet also passed on greetings from our President, Frank Gill and paid a heart-felt tribute to Nikos Zervis, which was both personal and from the Brotherhood.

Mr Pavlos Bouzianis gave the following speech on behalf of the Mayor:

“Dear Representative of Serbia, Dear Representative of Great Britain, Dear Representative of New Zealand, Representatives of Greek Authorities,Representatives of the Brotherhood of the Veterans, Dear visitors from Great Britain. On behalf of the Mayor Mr. Panagiotis Nikas, I welcome all of you to Kalamata on the occasion of today’s commemoration ceremony.

In April 1941, tens of thousands of British, Australian, Jewish, Serbian, Greek, New Zealand, and Cypriot soldiers fought against the Germans in mainland Greece and attempted to flee to Crete and Egypt. Thousands of them gathered in Kalamata for this purpose but many of them didn’t manage to do so and got captured.

Every year we commemorate these events. During the 13 years of tenure of the current Municipal Authority, this ceremony has taken place annually with splendor and has been attended by representatives of many states, while in 2011 the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team “Red Arrows” and a warship of Great Britain visited us.

Nikos Zervis, the link between Kalamata and the Brotherhood of the Veterans, was always with us. Unfortunately, he passed away a few months ago. His legacy, however, as well as what he offered to local history through his books shall be our heritage.

Ladies and gentlemen, The Greek Military Campaign in April 1941 and the Battle of Kalamata are important historical events. The Municipality of Kalamata has always done and shall continue to do whatever is necessary to preserve the historic memory and to highlight what happened. Our efforts are the least we can do to honor those who fought and gave their lives for the freedom of the nations. May they rest in peace.”

Laurel wreaths were laid by Mr Bouzianis and the other dignitaries.  Poppy tributes were laid by the Defence Attaché, Captain Ferns and by the following Brotherhood members: Noah Scott in Remembrance of the Prisoners of War, Mrs Elizabeth Matthews on behalf of the Widows, David Sanderson in Memory of Deceased members, Doug (Buster) Beckett on behalf of the Brotherhood of Veterans of the Greek Campaign and Mrs Di Billinge on behalf of the expatriate community.

After the service we enjoyed refreshments in the railway park, generously hosted by the City Council. Once again, the Kalamata service was a well attended and successful commemoration event.

Confirming date of 78th anniversary in UK: Saturday 7th September 2019

The 78th anniversary and UK Reunion  of the 1941 Greek campaign will  be held at the National Memorial Arboretum on Saturday 7th September 2019 at 11.30am in The Greek Grove, or if wet, in the Chapel. Details of the service can be found on the Arboretum website. Should you wish to join us for refreshments after the service, at a nearby venue, please get in touch by email at greekveterans@gmail.com