The Hellenic Presidential Guard form the catafalque party at the Lemnos Gallipoli Memorial. Photo: Jim Claven
In their first official engagement of their visit to Melbourne, the Hellenic Presidential Guard – the Evzones – featured at the first Anzac Day commemorative service held at the Lemnos Gallipoli Memorial at Lemnos Square, Albert Park.
The Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee hold an annual service at their Memorial every August, in commemoration of the role of the northern Aegean Island of Lemnos in the Gallipoli campaign and on the anniversary of the arrival of the Australian nurses there in August 1915. Due to the COVID pandemic they have been unable to hold their traditional public service at the Memorial.
The visit of the Hellenic Presidential Guard to Melbourne prompted the Committee to hold its inaugural Anzac Day commemorative service on Thursday, 21st April.
Over 100 people attended the commemorative service, with representatives of many Hellenic Australian community organizations being present.
These included a large contingent from Melbourne’s Lemnian community led by President Phil Diamataris. Others included representatives the Australian Nurses Memorial Centre, the Waverley RSL, the Greek Community of Melbourne & Victoria, the Pankorinthian Association, the Papaflessas Brotherhood, the Kalamata Society, the Cretan Brotherhood, the Panarcadian Federation, the Pontiaki Estia, Australian Federation of Pontic Associations, the Imvrian Society, the Krythian Association, the Greek Australian Cultural League, AHEPA Victoria, the Federation og Greek Elderly Citizens Clubs, the Greek Community of Dandenong and many more. Many local government councilors were also present, including from the Cities of Brimbank, Cardinia Darebin, Monash, Moreland and Port Philip.
Master of Ceremonies for the service was Committee Vice President, Ms Christina Despoteris.
The service commenced with the formal arrival of the Hellenic Presidential Guard who performed the role of the catafalque party, marching proudly to the Lemnos Gallipoli Memorial and forming its guard of honor at each corner, throughout the ensuing service.
Following the formal religious memorial service provided by Australian Army Chaplain Robert Vun, a number of key speeches were given, each honoring in their own way the role of Lemnos in the Gallipoli campaign and its part in Australia’s Anzac story.
President of the Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee, Mr Lee Tarlamis OAM MP, formally welcomed all to the Memorial and the service, recounting the story of the conception of the Memorial, its creation by Australia’s pre-eminent commemorative sculptor Mr Peter Corlett OAM and its erection and unveiling in 2015, the year of the centenary of Anzac.
In doing so, Mr Tarlamis explained how the Memorial – comprising the sick or wounded soldier and the caring nurse, with the villages of Lemnos where the Anzacs walked listed on the stone plinth in Greek and English – combine the Australian and Hellenic aspects of this story. This is a key to Peter’s artistic creation, even in his inspiration of the face of the God Artemis and the images of nurses from Lemnos in 1915.
He stressed the Memorial represented the Committee’s conviction to create a permanent and lasting legacy for Lemnos and Gallipoli. Mr Tarlamis also pointed out that the Memorial symbolized the connection between Australia and Greece, representing the many personal stories in that connection.
These included his own family, both through his Lemnian relatives and his ancestor Private Ted Tozer who served on Lemnos in 1915. He also pointed out the presence of Ms Deb Stewart, a member of the Committee, with an equally important connection to the Memorial in the person of her grandmother, Sister Evelyn Hutt, who served on Lemnos in 1915.
Mr Tarlamis was followed by addresses by Mr Emmanuel Kakavelakis, the Consul-General of Greece, and Major Vasileios Sakelaropoulos, Head of Delegation of the Hellenic Presidential Guard throughout their Melbourne visit.
Both stressed the important role of Lemnos in the Gallipoli campaign, including references to the many volunteers who served alongside the Anzacs during the campaign.
Major Sakelaropoulos expressed the appreciation of the Guard for the invitation to take part in this important commemorative event, celebrating the enduring links between Greece and Australia.
Other speeches included those by Ms Nina Taylor MP, representing the Victorian Government, and Mr David Davis, representing the Victorian Opposition. Ms Maria Vamvakinou, Federal MP and Co-Chair of the Australia Greece Parliamentary Friendship Group, and former Victorian MP, Mr Bruce Mildenhall, also took part in the service.
Members of Melbourne’s Lemnian community – including Mr Lee Tarlamis OAM MP (at left) and Ms Christina Despoteris (at right) – with members of the Hellenic Presidential Guard at the Lemnos Gallipoli Memorial. Photo: Jim Claven
It was my pleasure to also address the assembly in my capacity as a historian and as Secretary of the Committee, outlining the importance of Lemnos’ role in Gallipoli.
While the other northern Aegean Islands of Imbros and Tenedos played a lesser role in the campaign, Lemnos was its advanced base, with supply depots, huge rest camps and medical facilities, with its massive harbor at Mudros Bay hosting some 200 ships prior to the landings on April 25. Nearly all of Australia’s 50,000 service personnel – as well as the hundreds of thousands of other Allied troops – served on Lemnos for greater or lesser periods of time. For all these reasons, I said that:
“Without Lemmos there would have been no Gallipoli campaign. And there can be no discussion of Australia’s Anzac story without Lemnos.”
Given the presence of the Hellenic Presidential Guard, I explained the Hellenic contribution to the Gallipoli campaign. I pointed out the role of Hellenic volunteers on the Gallipoli front as interpreters and guides as well as in the two fighting units of French Foreign Legion, which comprised Hellenic volunteers from Asia Minor, Crete and beyond. However these also extended to the Hellenes who served in the Australian forces, such as Private Peter Rados, who came to Lemnos, took part in the landings on Anzac Day and would later become the sole Hellenic Anzac to be killed during the Gallipoli campaign.
The speeches were followed by a traditional Anzac service, with the reading of the Ode by Squadron Leader Steve Campbell-Wright, the playing of the Last Post as well as the Australian and Hellenic national anthems and the laying of wreaths.
On behalf of the Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee, Mr Lee Tarlamis OAM MP and historian Jim Claven present Major Sakelaropoulos with a copy of Lemnos & Gallipoli Revealed in recognition of the Hellenic Presidential Guard’s visit to the Lemnos Gallipoli Memorial. Photo: Vicki Kyritsis
Mr Tarlamis said it was a proud day for the Lemmos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee to host the Hellenic Presidential Guard at the Lemnos Gallipoli Memorial.
“This is a great privilege for our Committee and the wider Australian and Hellenic communities of Melbourne.
To have them take a formal role in our inaugural Anzac Day service as their first public appearance in our State is truly an honor. By their attendance today they have helped raise awareness of Lemnos and its role in the Gallipoli campaign, a participation that will be noted throughout Melbourne, Australia and in Greece,” he said
Mr Tarlamis thanked the Victorian Government for its support for the visit of the Hellenic Presidential Guard and Mr Tony Tsourdalakis of the Victorian Council for Greek National Day for his assistance with the Guard’s visit. Along with myself, Mr Tarlamis presented Major Sakelaropoulos with a copy of Lemnos & Gallipoli Revealed in recognition of the Hellenic Presidential Guard’s visit to the Lemnos Gallipoli Memorial.
The Guard will also be appearing at various other events throughout their ten day stay, including taking part in pride of place at Melbourne’s Anzac Day parade at our own iconic, Hellenic-inspired Shrine of Remembrance on 25 April.