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22nd Battalion 2NZEF
"Vrai et Fort"
Crete Commemoration 2016
The Battle of Crete 75 years on
The overnight ferry fron Pireaus (Athens) to Chania on Crete arrives at the entrance to the harbour just on sunrise. If you manage to get out of the surprisingly comfortable bunks on the ferry, you can brave the cold of dawn and watch the sun rise to the south over Crete.
After we disembarked, watched the comedy of our bags being offloaded by hand or in the back of a private car, we boarded the coaches for the short drive to our hotel. After breakfast we were back on the road to the first of three ceremonies that day - the Australian services at Stavromenos and Rethymnon and in the evening the unveiling of a memorial at 42nd Street.
Sunrise over Chania
To me, sunrises are always a wonderful display of colours and the gradual revealing of the landscape. Our entrance into Chania Harbour was no exception.
The Australian Service at Stavromenos
In May 1941 the Australians held the sector of Crete to the east of Chania at Rethymnon. They managed to defeat the attack and put up a fierce resistence to the German paratroopers at Rethymnon, holding it for more than a week. Their feat is recorded at a memorial on the outskirts of Rethymnon at Stavromenos. The ceremony here was the first of many to be held on Crete.
We rushed from Stavromenos to the harbour town of Rethymnon for the next Australian ceremony. The traffic in the old town was congested and we were late for the starting time. But so was everybody else - and this being Crete nobody was too concerned (except the Australian Warrant Officer who was in charge).
Old Chania and Venetian Harbour
From Heraklion, we drove through Chania to the northern coast of Crete and visited the old port known as Venetian Harbour. It is a small harbour enclosed by a breakwater with small lighthouse and is a major tourist drawcard. The nautical museum here has some excellent exhibits, including a large display on the Battle of Crete in May 1941.
The Battle of 42nd Street
The road from Chania to Tsikslaria runs south-east of Chania. It became known as 42nd Street because it was built by the British 42nd Engineer Field Company. The Battle of 42 Street unfolded thus: "As the Germans began moving inland to outflank the defenders' positions, the Australian, New Zealand and British forces were forced back towards Chania, which came under heavy air attack by German bombers. By 27 May, the weakened Australian 2/7th and 2/8th Battalions, supported by the New Zealand 21st, 28th, 19th, 22nd and 23rd Battalions, had taken up positions along 42nd Street, south-east of Chania where they formed a rearguard to protect the rest of the Commonwealth forces that were being pushed south.On 27 May, as a German battalion advanced towards the road, the Anzac defenders carried out a bayonet charge that inflicted heavy casualties on the German attackers, which forced them to withdraw and briefly halted the German advance." There is a more detailed description of the battle here.
Commemorative Brochure for the Dedication Service 19 May 2016
A glossy brochure was produced for the Commemorative Service. It describes the events of the Battle of 42nd Street and the background of the Australian and New Zealand troops involved.
Last updated: 19/07/2016