81st UK anniversary service held September 10th 2022

Our annual service of commemoration was held at the National Memorial Arboretum on 10th September 2022.

Father John (Nankivell) led the service, ably assisted, as usual, by Georgina, his wife.  There were also four other members of his congregation present.

We were delighted to once again welcome Captain Ioannis Papavlachos, Greek Defence Attaché, together with Brigadier Jim Bliss, Defence Attaché, NZ Defence Force; Major Thomas Williams, RA; Captain Paul Mandzie, Royal Australian Navy, Australian Defence Force;  and Captain Jonathan Nice, QRH. All our special guests laid wreaths.

Janet Parkin gave a short welcome speech and reiterated how important it is not to forget the 1941 Greek Campaign and the sacrifices made.  This was followed by an address from our Chairman, David Sanderson, an abridged version of which is shown below:

“The Battle of Greece involved over one and a quarter million Axis forces against a combined Greek and Allied force of around 500,000. The German forces were not only larger, but they were also better equipped, and crucially had control over the skies. Britain had committed a force of approximately 60,000 personnel to Greece, made up principally of British, Australian and New Zealand troops, who arrived there in early 1941.

It was an ill-fated campaign. When Germany invaded Greece on 6th April 1941 the decision was soon taken to leave mainland Greece for Crete, and so a long journey started to the southern ports of Navplia, Monevasia, Raffinia and Kalamata. This was a perilous retreat, and soon became another Dunkirk. The Navy did a magnificent job, getting away around 52,000 of the 60,000 or so of our forces. Unfortunately, around 8,000 men left behind and were taken as PoWs by the Germans to Stalag 18a in Wolfsburg, Austria.

The Brotherhood was set up by Janet’s father in 1990. Edwin Horlington advertised in the National Press to find fellow veterans, and the idea of erecting a memorial in Kalamata was taken up. With contributions from veterans and with the support of Paddy Leigh Fermor as Patron, a memorial was unveiled in 1994, and an annual service of commemoration has been held ever since in Greece. A book entitled Tell Them We Were Here was published, containing accounts by veterans of their own experience in Greece. The Greek Grove in which we are now standing, was also established.

Each year I like to mention a couple of names for us to especially remember on this day. Today I’m thinking about Joe Burke and Eric Bardsley.

Joe Burke: Sadly, Joe died in 2018 aged 97. A member of the RASC, Joe had the misfortune to be involved in the evacuation from Dunkirk, and then subsequently found himself in the same position in Greece retreating to Crete. This time there was no escape, and Joe was captured on 28th April 1941. Joe followed the usual route for men captured at that time in Greece by ending up in Stalag 18A in Austria. Spending four years in the various POW camps, Joe recounted how to get more food men tried to get sent to hospital where the food was better and there was more of it. Eventually Joe found a better way forward when he volunteered for farm work, as farmworkers were fed by the farmer, enabling Joe to build up his strength over a 12 month period. Joe eventually escaped to Hungary, where he spent 12 months in relative freedom. He was a veteran who retained a wonderful sense of humour, and he would have loved to have been here today to remember his old comrades.

Eric Bardsley: Eric joined the Royal Corps of Signals in 1940 and became a wireless operator. He too was captured in late April 1941 and sent to Stalag 18A. Eric wrote about his experiences in his book “Barbed Wire and the Balkans”. Eric vividly described the extremely difficult conditions in which the prisoners lived, and how dysentery took hold of the men making them very weak. Eric was a German speaker and as such he played an important role for many of his colleagues as interpreter. What struck me about Eric was how little resentment he held for the Germans after his experiences. He was very phlegmatic about his time as a POW and truly was one of life’s “gentlemen”. Eric also became a keen supporter of the Brotherhood, and very much enjoyed the reunions and services he was able to attend.

It is claimed that the Greek campaign was not a complete disaster. By committing some of his best divisions to Greece, Hitler delayed his planned invasion of Russia by six crucial weeks. That delay meant the Germans hit the Russian winter, which undoubtedly contributed hugely to a Russian victory on the Eastern Front. I for one like to believe that that is true, and that our parents/grandparents did not go through what they did in vain. It is very important that we remember the men who lost their lives, or who were badly injured doing what they were required to do for their country, and for our freedoms today.

Thank you all for doing that, by being here today. “

Nine wreaths were laid, one by each of our guests mentioned above plus Buster Beckett in memory of the Prisoners of War; Mrs Anne Holmes on behalf of the Widows; Mark Buttery in memory of Deceased Members and David Sanderson on behalf of the Brotherhood.  Geoff Swinnerton gave the oration and acted as Parade Marshall.  ‘Thank You’ to you all.

UK Reunion 81st anniversary 10th September 2022

As previously advised, this year’s service will be held in the Greek Grove, National Memorial  Arboretum, Lichfield at 11.30am on Saturday 10th September 2022, or, if wet, in the chapel at 12 noon.  Arrangements at the Arboretum are the same this year as in 2021. All visits must be pre-booked – up to two weeks in advance.  If booking online the email address is http://www.thenma.org.uk.  If you are arriving by car, please note that one ticket is required per four wheeled vehicle (cost £4.00) and  all passengers are included in the ticket.  If you cannot book online, phone NMA 01283 245 100. Please email us at greekveterans@gmail.com if you would like to join us for a buffet lunch after the service. Lunch will be held at a nearby venue, for which there is a small charge per person, payable on the day.


Back in Kalamata for the 81st anniversary service

For our UK group, having missed the 2020 and 2021 services, it was absolutely wonderful to be back, once again, in Kalamata.  The commemoration was held Tuesday 10th May at 11.00 a.m. at the Memorial in the Railway Park.  The Mayor, Mr Athanasios Vasilopoulos, was unfortunately unable to attend, but was ably represented by the Deputy Mayor, Mr George Favas.  Also in attendance was Captain Alex Bush,  Defence Attaché from the British Embassy in Athens, as well as other civic and military dignitaries.  The Deputy Mayor gave an address, followed by Captain Bush. Then Janet Parkin said a few words – once again reiterating that the Greek Campaign must not be forgotten, and thanked the City of Kalamata for continuing to be so supportive and for organizing “this important Annual Act of Remembrance”. Barry Parkin gave the oration.  Laurel wreaths were laid by the Greek dignitaries and poppy tributes were laid by Captain Alex Bush and by the following Brotherhood representatives:  Lorraine Gill in Remembrance of the Prisoners of War;  Mrs Di Billnge on behalf of the Widows;  Mrs Tricia Cruise In Memory of Deceased Members;  Doug (Buster) Beckett on behalf of the Brotherhood of Veterans of the 1941 Greek Campaign and Jane Thomas on behalf of the British Residents of Kalamata.  We were also joined this year by Mr Ronen Polovian who laid a wreath on behalf of the Jewish Pioneer Families Association. After the service we enjoyed refreshments in the Railway Park, generously hosted as usual by the Kalamata City Council.  Many thanks also go to Astri Mavrea, Press and PR Officer at Kalamata City Hall for all her help and support.


Kalamata 81st anniversary service 10th May 2022

This year’s commemoration in Kalamata of the 1941 Greek Campaign has been scheduled for Tuesday 10th May 2022 (depending on Covid situation). Several airlines fly direct to Kalamata: Ryanair and Jet2 from Stansted, easyJet from Gatwick and Jet2 from Manchester. Some of us stay at the Haikos Hotel which we book directly. In addition, Thomas Cook offer package holidays to Kalamata. Please email us at greekveterans@gmail.com if you would like to join us for the ceremony and/or would like more information.


Kalamata and UK Reunions 2022 – 81st Anniversary of Greek Campaign

We do not yet have a date for the Kalamata Reunion in 2022 but we hope this will be held the week commencing 9th May 2022. Based on previous years, the ceremony is usually held on a Tuesday which would be 10th May 2022. We will publish an update when we know more.

The UK Reunion at Lichfield will be held Saturday 10th September 2022. More information will follow in due course.