Ceremony honours soldiers 75 years after Battle of Crete

By John Cousins

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A previous service held at Tauranga RSA to commemorate the Battle of Crete. Photo/file
A previous service held at Tauranga RSA to commemorate the Battle of Crete. Photo/file

The 75th anniversary commemoration of one of the most dramatic engagements of World War II, the Battle of Crete, is expected to draw a big turnout to the Mount Maunganui RSA tomorrow.

Commonwealth troops including New Zealanders fought in the 12-day battle that began with an airborne invasion by thousands of German parachutists on to the Mediterranean island in 1941.

The battle ended with the withdrawal or capture of the Allied forces, including the 98-year-old wreath-layer at tomorrow's service, Brant Robinson, who was captured by the Germans and spent four years as a prisoner of war.

Club support manager Peter Moss said the Battle of Crete was a bit of a disaster.

"We like to celebrate our disasters," he said.

Mr Moss will serve as MC for the service, which is expected to be attended by the MP for Tauranga, Simon Bridges, and the Mayor Stuart Crosby.

Mount RSA member and acting secretary/treasurer of the New Zealand Battle of Crete Association Colin Henderson will deliver a poignant address.

Mr Moss said the association was based at the Mount RSA with national meetings drawing the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of soldiers who fought on Crete.

Greerton's Maleme St was named after the airfield that was the first area to be captured by the German parachutists.

The guards at tomorrow's service in front of the Wall of Remembrance inside the club will be drawn from Tauranga's cadet forces. Everyone who attends will get the sprig of an olive branch to lay with the wreath.

Anglican vicar the Reverend John Hebenton will deliver the prayer and reflection, Mr Henderson will recite the ode and bugler Peter Cranson will play The Last Post.

Once the ceremony is finished, Tauranga's Athena Dancers will entertain with a lively display of Greek dancing in the clubhouse.

A contingent of people from the Western Bay, whose fathers and grandfathers fought in the battle, have made an emotional pilgrimage to join commemorations at Crete from May 19 to May 22.

The battle and its aftermath has etched itself into the memories of Kiwi families and the people of Crete, who suffered at the hands of the Germans for harbouring Commonwealth soldiers who failed to get away in the main evacuation.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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