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Ceremony marks the 68th anniversary of the Battle of Crete

Visit to New Zealand by LTGEN Konstantinos Kalamatas, Deputy Chief of Defence, Hellenic National Defence General Staff, Greece and RA Jack Steer, VCDF.
LTGEN Konstantinos Kalamatas, Deputy Chief of Defence, Hellenic National Defence General Staff, Greece and Vice Chief of NZDF, RA Jack Steer. (OH-09-0317-003tn)

21 May 2009

The 68th anniversary of the Battle of Crete was marked by a wreath laying ceremony at the National War Memorial in Wellington on Wednesday 20 May. It was attended by veterans of Crete, dignitaries, politicians, and military personnel. 

The New Zealand Army provided a catafalque guard in the Hall of Memories and music was provided by the Central Band of the RNZAF.

The Governor General the Honourable Anand Satyanand delivered an oral history reading about Private Roy Coates, a New Zealander who served with the 18 Battalion in Greece, and his experiences during the retreat.

Among the wreaths laid was one by Arthur Midwood and Phil O’Neil, representing New Zealand veterans who served in Crete.  Wreaths were also laid by visiting Deputy General Hellenic National Defence General Staff Lieutenant General Konstantinos Kalamatas; and Artemis Xirafakis and Antonio Apostolakis, representing the youth of Greece. 

Mr Midwood, who served in the 28 Maori Battalion, said that during the battle of Crete he suffered a penetrating bullet wound to the right side of his chest.  “I was grateful to receive a field dressing from the medical officer, but after that I was “on my own”.  I strongly recall the sense of having to look after myself, with my right arm completely useless.  I also recall purchasing a bottle of water from one of the local villagers.  After walking from Suda Bay, across the mountains, I reached Sfakia, the evacuation beach where there we other soldiers trying to escape. 

“We were constantly under fire, particularly from Stuka bombers.  One projectile hit an olive tree I was sheltering under, and a burning piece of metal landed on my leg, making me think that I had been shot again.  I recall the extreme difficulty of the evacuation, getting on the boat with only one arm, with the attack from the air continuing.  I remained lying on the deck of the boat until we reached Egypt the following day, where I spent several months convalescing.”

Mr Midwood’s tale was one of many told by the veterans as they gathered for a much needed cup of tea after the ceremony. 

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