This is our last day on Crete and we left our hotel in Rethymnon and headed east to Heraklion where we were to firstly visit the Knossos Palace home of the Minoans. We are fortunate to have Elena as our guide as Dr Elena Sulioti did her PHD on the Minoan History so our viewing was most interesting and informative.. The Knossos Palace was so named by Arthur Evans, the archaeologist who discovered and excavated the site. He found what he saw as being different to the Mycenaeans that he expected to find to have lived there. He knew then that he was looking at a different cultural group. They were in fact to be known as the Minoans. He thought the site was a palace but now it seems that there has never been any proof found that the Minoans actually had Kings but maybe it was a cultural or religious centre for the aristocratic members of the nation. As the structure was so significant and so advanced for the time, Evans believed there was a throne room within the centre. Much controversy is still out there in the archaeologist world as to the way Evans went about the dig and the reconstruction. The Jury is still out on the best outcome and process.
Following our visit we made our way to the location where the German General Commanding Crete, Kreipe was abducted by the SOE team of Major Patrick Leigh Fermor and Captain William Stanley Moss who had planned to abduct Baur the previous Commander, but when he was replaced, proceeded with their plans and targeted Kreipe instead. They were helped by Cretan resistance fighters in the successful abduction. Lunch in the centre of Heraklion before we moved on to visit Father Nickolas in his Chapel on the hill overlooking Heraklion Airport, the scene in 1941 of some desperate action as the 2/4th Battalion took on the German paratroopers who had dropped onto their defensive position.
This was the third place on the island that had the paratroopers dropped in to secure the airfield but as at Rethymnon, they failed and their casualties were high. The 2/4th Battalion and all the 4th Brigade were evacuated as the Germans had control of the airfield at Maleme and were advancing towards the East with significant reinforcements.
We have been visiting Father Nicholas for many years now and have been supportive in his efforts to retain the Chapel on the site. It seems now that we have been successful as the Chapel will be retained. Last year, James Mackay, Assistant Secretary of the Merewether-Hamilton-Adamstown RSL Sub-Branch in Newcastle NSW brought with him a plaque that he presented to Father Nickolas on behalf of the Sub-Branch. The plaque was to honour Alf Carpenter for over 30 years as a valued member of the Newcastle ex-service community and more recently as a member of the Order of Australia Association and the presentation was made on the battlefield where Alf Carpenter fought in support of Greece against invasion by Nazi Germany as RSM of 2/4th Battalion. Alf Carpenter is one of only two surviving members of the 2/4th Battalion who fought during the Greece and Crete Campaigns. It is indeed unusual at this time to be recognising rather than remembering the service of a veteran of the early years of the Second World War. Father Nickolas has had a special Memorial built on the hill above the Chapel and on it a replica of the plaque brought by James as Father Nickolas keeps the original away in a secure position.
We then toasted the men of the 2/4th Battalion with grappa and wine from his vineyard. Some olives and cake appeared, as it always does and we chatted while we had this special afternoon tea with him. It is always sad to leave him, but we must, so we said our goodbyes and made our way to Heraklion for dinner before boarding our ferry to Athens.