Crete Pilgrimage 2016 - Day 29

Galatas Village, Cemetery Hill, Prison Valley and Suda Bay


Galatas is a small village in the hills south of Chania. In 1941 it was held by a half-strength 18th Battalion. On 25th May the German forces attacked and took the village. The 23rd Battalion and any other troops available, (including the Kiwi Concert Party) were rushed in for a counter-attack. Two light tanks from the British 7th Royal Tank Regiment arrived. Brigadier Kippenberger quickly formulated plans for a counter-attack. He later reported "Lieutenant Farran stopped in his tank and I told him to go into the village and see what was there. He clattered off and we could hear him firing briskly, when two more companies of the Twenty-third arrived. I told the two company commanders they would have to retake Galatas with the help of the two tanks… . The men fixed bayonets and waited grimly." The New Zealanders raced through the village to the main square. There they found the tanks: one was knocked out, the other damaged. Under heavy fire from the other side of the square, the men charged. Much of the fighting was at close quarters with bayonets and rifle butts – and the Germans withdrew in disarray.

In 2016 we walked up the road followed by the New Zealand troops, passing the school in which New Zealand nurses had sheltered. The road is still too narrow for a small coach. Part of the town square is now a memorial to the New Zealanders and the local Crete people who lost their lives in the battle and in the German suppression of ongoing local resistance. Here we attended the next commemoration ceremony.

As you start on the walk up to Galatas, you pass a memorial to the 1st Battalion The Welch Regiment
The you climb the hill on the narrow road.,.
passing the school where the New Zealand nurses waited in 1941.
You can look back at Chania adn the north coast...
and east across Crete.
The New Zealand nurses in the school in 1941.
Until you reach the square in the centre of Galatas and the local church.
As it was in 1941.
Lieutenant Farran's tank, abandoned in the square at Galatas...
Today the remains of his tank have made a useful door into a local courtyard.
The New Zealand and Crete memorial at Galatas.
In the Square you are reminded of the importance of 21 May 1941.
The Greek guard lined up outside the Church.
The crowd waited and officials wondered where the remaining veteran's were...
Time to start the service...
The Governor-General has arrived.
So too the Australian Navy.
The crowd squeezed into the small park..
just as the last of the veterans arrived.
The service began with a blessing...
Locals and officials looked on..
Lex French again played the Last Post
then speeches..
Chief of Army.
Goveror-General as Chief of Defence Force (retired).
Then it was over and we could look at the wreaths.
The crowd was plied with Raki and cake.
Our group of travellers around the memorial
This wreath was to 22nd Battalion men

Cemetery Hill and Prison Valley


The hill behind Galatas became known as Cemetery Hill (owing to the local cemetery near the top). Today the top of the hill is dominated by a partly constructed ediface, the beginnings of a large, permanent war memorial. As with many things in Greece, the idea was great but the funding did not exist, so the idea has faded away. There is however, a good model of the building in the maritime museum in Chania.

From Cemetery Hill you get a good view north and south along the valley that runs south from Chania. Southwards is known as "Prison Valley" due to the location of the local prison. In 1941 the prison was captured by the German forces and used as the local headquarters.

Looking north from near the prison up to Cemetery Hill.
On the hilltop is the abandoned Crete War Museum.
And near top is the reason for the name....
Looking up from the prison in 1941.
The cemetery in 1941.
and the prison in 1941.
The same prison today.
Looking south, up Prison Valley.
Looking northeast towards Chania.
The abandoned Museum.
At the Museum, the remains of an earlier memorial, now damaged...
although the title .
and New Zealand plates are intact..
The memorial as it was a few years earlier.
On top of the Museum, getting the lay of the land from Mark.
Scale model of the museum in the Maritime Museum in Chania
Legend for locations on the model.
Description of the museum.

Suda Bay War Cemetery and the Commonwealth Commemoration Service

The Commonwealth War Cemetery at Suda Bay is the only one on Crete. It was the site for the main Commonwealth Commemoration Service on the afternoon of Saturday 21 May 2016. The Service started late in the day at 6pm. The sun was low but the wind had risen and this gave some of the wreath bearers a few problems. One large gust carried many of the wreaths away. The ever-present Australian Warrant Officer chased them down and returned them to the base of the Cross.

The programme for the Commonwelath Service is reproduced here.

Suda Bay Cemetery and the Commonwealth Service

That is indeed a Pohutukawa tree in the Cemetery at Suda Bay.
INCONNU - unknown French soldier
Johan Trojer - a German
People beginning to arrive for the Commonwealth Service at Suda Bay
Combined Greek Army and Navy honour guard
Now joined by the Navy band.
and a small German contingent.
The official party
Chief of Army
The wreaths laid out in order, ready to be laid.
The veterans await the service.
The head of the Commonweath War Graves Commission
Beginning the service
Hon Hekia Parata, New Zealand Cabinet Minister with a reading
The lone piper - I think he was at Cassino in 2014
As at the other services, local cameramen made a nuisance of themselves...
But this time, the awfully nice chap in the white hat kept them at bay
Even threatening to have the bloke in the middle escorted off the cemetery if he once again got in front of the speakers.
Afterwards it was time to mingle - "George! - we met you in Cassino!!"
The shadows grew longer
F.T. SCOTT received a nice bouquet of flowers.
And finally the sun set on the service.

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Last updated: 12/06/2017