submitted by O Kosmos on 30.07.2006
O KOSMOS Page 14, 23 April 1987.
On the eve of Anzac Day, arguably Australia’s most important day of the year, it is imperative that we recall the contribution made by the Greeks in the Australian armed forces, particularly of the Great War.
The Australian Hellenic Historical Society has, for the past two years been researching the Greek contribution to the AustraIan war effort. The secretary Mr Tas Psarakis, has been researching Greek veterans and has stated to Kosmos that, "Initiially I thought that we would find one or two, but to date I have discovered 15 or so, and I feel that I wiII find quite a few more. All Australian troops of the 1st World War were volunteers, and the Greek boys motives for going were from a sense of adventure, to comIng to grips with the Turks, to pehaps seeing Greece on their tour of duty".
"Names that spring to mind are Nicholas Rodakis, Pandelis Cosopotiotis, George Georgantis, Nicholas Eleftheriou, George Pappas, Minas Asianis, Dionysios Vartholomaios, Jack Michael, Con Passaris, Michael Gunellas and Stavros Kakulis. At least two George Pappas and Nicholas Eleffheriou, served on GaIlipoli. Just about all suffered the effects of mustard gas on the blood baths of France and Beigum".
“George Pappas volunteered in Tamworth in Sept 1914 at the age of 25, just a month after war was declared. He was assigned to the 13th Battalion, and it appears that he landed on the bullet swept beach at Anzac Cove on the second morning of the landing. Pappas served right through the Gallipolli campaign, being evacuated in December 1915. In August of that year, his battalion was ordered to reinforce an attack on a prominent position above the beach, called Hill 60. During this action, Pappas was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for heroism in the face of the enemy. After the DCM, the Victoria Cross was the next highest gallantry award that could be given to a non commissioned officer or private soldier in WW1. It was not given lightly, and there is no doubt that many who were recommended for the VC were awarded the DCM.”
“Another distinguished veteran was Nicholas Rodakis, who enlisted in 1916, at the age of 38. A machine gunner, he won the Military Medal in September 1916 for gallentry, and 12 months later, when his unit was attached to the 27th US Infantry Division, he was awarded the American Distinguished Service Cross for “extraordinary heroism in the face of the enemy. Wounded five times, he inflicted huge losses on the attacking Germans, giving the hard pressed Americans time to regroup and press home a counterattack. This much respected man passed away in 1961 at the age of 83, one of the highest decorated Australian soldiers of the First World War.”
“Four Castellorisian boys from Western Australia enlisted in 1916. They were Agapitos (Jack) Michael, Stavros Kakulis, Con Passaris and Michael GunelIas. Jack Michael gave this country not only his war service, but a son, Michael, who is the present Lord Mayor of Perth. Incidentally, Michael served as a crewman on Catalina Flying Boats, during the last war. Michael Gunellas received a Distinguished Service Medal, a high award, for gallantry in action.”
Mr Psarakis added, "My research with Greek immigrants of the last century led me to Michael Manousou, who arrived in Sydney in 1853, and the following year married an English lass in Braidwood. They had 12 children. Two of his sons, Alfred Aristides, and Frank Homer, served with cavalry units in the Anglo-Boer War in South Africa in 1899-1902."
By 1939. there where nearly 15,000 Greeks in the Commonwealth, and in the next five years of war, many hundreds served in all branches of the Australian armed forces. Many young boys were killed or wounded in both the Pacific and European theatres of war. They manned Lancaster and Wellington bombers, flew Spitfires and Mustangs, were sailors, tramped across the Kokoda Trail, fought in the jungles of Bougainville and Guadalcanal, were in medical teams, and suffered inhuman conditions as prisoners of war of the Japanese. One old established Kytherian family lost three members within a month in the Mediterranean theatre. George Caling (Kallinikos) volunteered in 1939 at Armidale, and served as an infantryman in Egypt, Greece, Crete, Syria, Ceylon, and New Guinea. His unit, the 2/2nd Batn, was one of the first allied outfits to stop the Japanese advance along the famous Kokoda Trail. One family in Greece lost four sons during the Italo-German invasion, and their fifth son who was drafted in Australia was killed in action fighting for his adopted country.
Korea and Viet-Nam saw young Greeks in Australian uniform once again, but that will be another story for the future.
Mr Psarakis further stated, “Although I have been labouring through official war records I would be most happy to hear from people who served, particularly in WW1, or from descendants of these men. I think that it is imperative that we record these men for our future generators, so that their memory is not lost for ever.” Mr Psarakis can be contacted on ........
The Australian Hellenic Historical Society established in 1984, has been active in collecting and researching Hellenism in this country. All its researchers are voluntary workers putting in hours of work each week, because they care and believe in this vital work. The Society however cannot operate without your support, It requires donations from interested and caring people to realise the establishment of a museum to house its relics, a library, and an archival repository. If anyone would like to help, please contact Mr Tas Psarakis on (02) .......... Your help will be gratefully received. All donations over S2.00 to the AHHS Museum Fund’, or the AHHS Library Fund are TAX DEDUCTIBLE. The Society is fully registered as a charity with the NSW government. Anyone interested in becoming an active researcher would be most welcome.
Editors Footnote 2006:
The Australian Hellenic Historical Society ceased active research operations in the late nineties.
The call for funds above is therfore placed here as a matter of recording what was printed in O Kosmos in 1987.
Most of the data collected by the Society has been retained, and maintained in good order.
Negotiations are underway as to if, how, and when this wealth of information can be placed on the kythera-family.net web-site.
submitted by Jim Comino on 30.08.2006
Theo Minas Comino served in the Greek Navy in WW1 and coming to Australia in 1924 served in the RAAF in and around the Pacific mainly in New Guinea.
After his release from the RAAF he bought a Cafe in Merriwa from Sam and George Nicholas and went on to purchase 1500 acres of Gundibri Station between Merriwa and Scone and a Newsagency in town.
He passed away in Inverel in 1997 at 95 yrs old and is buried next to his wife Hazel in the Catholic section of the cemetary in Merriwa.
Teacher, journalist, poet and author, Sydney NSW Australia
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