Crete Pilgrimage 2016 - Day 28

Arrival at Sunrise, Rethymnon and Heraklion, Chania & 42nd Street

The overnight ferry fron Pireaus (Athens) to Chania on Crete arrives at the entrance to the harbour just on sunrise. If you manage to get out of the surprisingly comfortable bunks on the ferry, you can brave the cold of dawn and watch the sun rise to the south over Crete.

After we disembarked, watched the comedy of our bags being offloaded by hand or in the back of a private car, we boarded the coaches for the short drive to our hotel. After breakfast we were back on the road to the first of three ceremonies that day - the Australian services at Stavromenos and Rethymnon and in the evening the unveiling of a memorial at 42nd Street.

Sunrise over Chania

To me, sunrises are always a wonderful display of colours and the gradual revealing of the landscape. Our entrance into Chania Harbour was no exception.

The Australian Service at Stavromenos

In May 1941 the Australians held the sector of Crete to the east of Chania at Rethymnon. They managed to defeat the attack and put up a fierce resistence to the German paratroopers at Rethymnon, holding it for more than a week. Their feat is recorded at a memorial on the outskirts of Rethymnon at Stavromenos. The ceremony here was the first of many to be held on Crete.

The Greek honour guard along the narrow path up to the Australian memorial
The Australian catafalque party
The crowd squeezed into the small space in front of the memorial
The Greek officer who delivered each of the wreaths. Each time, he performed a complicated manouvere with arms thrown high.
Local school children waiting their turn
Two New Zealand army personnel in the crowd
An old Crete veteran laying a wreath
Two of the older children lay a wreath
The catafalque party retires
Wreaths at the foot of the memorial
The Australian memorial at Stavromenos


We rushed from Stavromenos to the harbour town of Rethymnon for the next Australian ceremony. The traffic in the old town was congested and we were late for the starting time. But so was everybody else - and this being Crete nobody was too concerned (except the Australian Warrant Officer who was in charge).

Cretans in traditinoal dress at the memorial in Rethymnon
New Zealand Army personnel waiting in the shade
Major General Peter Kelly, Chief of Army
"We are running late - where is the official party?" "Relax, Sir, this is Crete."
At last, the New Zealand Governor-General and party arrives
The Australian catafalque party comes to attention
The service is blessed...
The Australian Navy band plays the National Anthems
The Governor-General is the first to lay a wreath
The lanky Greek soldier prepares to deliver more wreaths
And Lex French from New Zealand sounds the Last Post
The crowd of officials maintain a dignified watch proceedings
But this chap with the camera got into a frenzy of activity...
running up and down trying to photograph each wreath layer...
from as many different angles as possible
The party held their composure
Whereas the Australian photographer was more discrete.
After the ceremony the New Zealand Army party posed for photographs
While the Greek Army watched on
Eventually only the wreaths remained at the memorial
This one is from the New Zealand Governor-General

Old Chania and Venetian Harbour

From Heraklion, we drove through Chania to the northern coast of Crete and visited the old port known as Venetian Harbour. It is a small harbour enclosed by a breakwater with small lighthouse and is a major tourist drawcard. The nautical museum here has some excellent exhibits, including a large display on the Battle of Crete in May 1941.

Panorama of Venetian Harbour, Chania
View of the harbour in early 1941
The harbour today
Boat charters and diving trips are popular
The streets behind the waterfront are full of shops
Hats and sunglasses were in abundance
So were cats and sheep
The waterfront is dominated by cafes - all selling over-priced food
But the beer was good and cold. Trick is, how to drink it without it sloshing all over you. (Drink with the feet pointing down).
The harbour in 1941
The lighthouse in 1941
Today the pier in front is dominated by horse and buggy rides
In 1941 the streets had been devastated by bombing
Today the Greek Navy patrols offshore
Driving back to our hotel we passed Theodoroi Island
The same island in 1941 just before the invasion

The Battle of 42nd Street

The road from Chania to Tsikslaria runs south-east of Chania. It became known as 42nd Street because it was built by the British 42nd Engineer Field Company. The Battle of 42 Street unfolded thus: "As the Germans began moving inland to outflank the defenders' positions, the Australian, New Zealand and British forces were forced back towards Chania, which came under heavy air attack by German bombers. By 27 May, the weakened Australian 2/7th and 2/8th Battalions, supported by the New Zealand 21st, 28th, 19th, 22nd and 23rd Battalions, had taken up positions along 42nd Street, south-east of Chania where they formed a rearguard to protect the rest of the Commonwealth forces that were being pushed south.On 27 May, as a German battalion advanced towards the road, the Anzac defenders carried out a bayonet charge that inflicted heavy casualties on the German attackers, which forced them to withdraw and briefly halted the German advance." There is a more detailed description of the battle here.

Aerial view south of Chania harbour and ferry terminal. 42nd Steeet runs north-south on the left edge of he photo
Closer view of the memorial under construction in early 2016
Google street view of the memorial's location before construction started.
New sign to the memorial
Crowds gathered at sunset
Unveiling the new memorial in concrete and granite
X who was the driving force behind the construction of the memorial
Look at him....
Yes, Lex French again on the bugle
He had practiced the haka as well
Jerry Mataparae watching proceedings
Crete dancing
Local school children sang...
and sang...
Then there was time to mingle
and photograph the memorial stone
The granite slab had been preceeded by an elaborate bronze one, but the locals preferred granite - they thought the bronze too valuable and unlikely to remain in place.
Looking south down 42nd Street
The original concept for the memorial

Commemorative Brochure for the Dedication Service 19 May 2016

A glossy brochure was produced for the Commemorative Service. It describes the events of the Battle of 42nd Street and the background of the Australian and New Zealand troops involved.

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Last updated: 12/06/2017