It does not seem 12 months since I was last here sitting and looking up at the lights outlining that magnificent ancient structure on the Acropolis, but it is, to the day. Our small group has now gathered ready to step out into history as we follow that campaign in 1941 where the Australian and New Zealand soldiers were sent to Greece to support Greece after it had repelled the Italians but were now facing the might of Germany. I have said many times previously that the campaign was against the odds from the start but the subsequent withdrawal down the Greek Peninsula, escaping to Crete to fight again and then being forced to evacuate from there was an incredible success, even though many were lost and many left in captivity. But, it was a magnificently controlled withdrawal under constant pressure from the air and against many German Divisions. Greece was lost, but Crete nearly was not. That action on Crete was a hairís breadth from being a victory. Enough about that now, but you will hear much from me over the next days and weeks.
We will walk on the same ground and as we move throughout the mainland and on to Crete we will get a perspective of the task that was before them. We do have families of those who were here in 1941 and fortunately all survived but some were lost to captivity. For those family members here with us, this will certainly be a special moment in their life and the rest of us will be there with them sharing some very moving moments.
As well as the history of the campaign we will be taken through the ancient history of Greece itself through the knowledge of our guide, Dr Elena Sulioti. But first we are here in Athens and enjoyed our day before we head to Delphi in the morning. The day was better than the day before which saw, for myself, a very wet Athens but today, clear skies. Firstly, a coffee in the Plaka, the oldest part of Athens, then an on again off again open deck tour of Athens followed by lunch in the Plaka amongst the many people enjoying Easter Sunday amongst the smell of the traditional lambs cooking on the spit. Our traditional visit to the oldest Bar in Athens followed by dinner had us ready for tomorrow and our special adventure.
I nearly forgot to mention our wonderful experience last night as we were fortunate to visit a local church near our hotel to take part in the Resurrection Service. Just before the end of the Service the crowd moved forward to the Church Altar to have their candles lit by the flame that had arrived from the Cathedral. A charter flight had delivered the flame from Jerusalem that early evening and at 2100 the flame had been disseminated to all the churches in Athens. Following that, with our candles flaming away we all moved outside at midnight for that last phase of the Service. There must have been over 1000 standing while the Priest completed the Service. How fortunate to be able to take part in such a Service.
Away for now as bed is calling. I look forward to you being with us on our commemorative travels.
Colonel Graham Fleeton and of course, Gallipoli, the travelling Bear.