Battle of Greece and Crete: 70th anniversary
This month marks the 70th anniversary of the battle of Greece and Crete, a significant battle during the Second World War and one that forever links Australia with Greece. At great cost the Greek people fought valiantly for their freedom, and half a million Greeks lost their lives. I am proud that my grandfathers fought to ensure that Greece successfully resisted the Italian fascists. The Greeks were supported by the Australian, New Zealand and British allies. However, the Greek mainland was ultimately occupied by the invading Nazi Germans, who then proceeded to invade the beautiful island of Crete through the largest paratrooper invasion of the Second World War.
Defending the mainland of Greece, 320 Australians were killed, 494 were wounded and more than 2000 were taken prisoner. Crete was defended by around 6500 servicemen from Australia, who fought alongside New Zealand, British and Greek troops. Some 274 Australian soldiers lost their lives during the battle of Crete, 507 were wounded and more than 3000 were captured and spent the rest of the war as prisoners of war.
During the four-year occupation the Cretan people risked their own lives to protect and shelter the Anzac troops, who tried desperately to evade capture. This battle helped delay Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union, a crucial factor in its eventual defeat.
I wish to congratulate the Cretan Federation of Australia and New Zealand and other local organisations which organised a number of recent events to commemorate this significant anniversary. I note also that six Australian Second World War veterans who served in Greece and Crete visited Greece last week with a number of parliamentarians to commemorate this historic occasion. We owe a sincere debt of gratitude to all the Australian veterans who served in Greece and Crete. We will forever remember them.