The campaign in Greece, 1941
By Peter Ewer
Published by Scribe; http://www.scribepublications.com.au
RRP: $49.99 in hardcover
If this book looks familiar, your memory isn’t failing you. Based on a series of interviews with veterans of the Greek campaign, the research was originally intended for a film documentary. It was first published in 2008.
In his introduction to the revised edition, author Peter Ewer explains why he decided to revise the book so soon after its initial publication. The first book provoked a level of interest and feedback from readers that gave him new insights into the campaign that caused him to think more deeply about the implications of some aspects of the story.
Desperately outnumbered and fighting in deeply inhospitable conditions, these forgotten Anzacs found themselves engaging in a long retreat through Greece, under constant air attack.
Most of the Anzac Corps was evacuated by the end of April 1941, but many men got only as far as Crete. Fighting a German paratroop invasion there in May, large numbers were taken captive and spent four long years as prisoners of the Nazis.
The campaign in Greece turned out to have uncanny parallels to the original Gallipoli operation: both were inspired by Winston Churchill, both were badly planned by British military leaders, and both ended in defeat and evacuation. Just as Gallipoli provided military academies the world over with lessons in how not to conduct a complex feat of arms, Churchill’s Greek adventure reinforced fundamental lessons in modern warfare — heavy tanks could not be stopped by men armed with rifles, and Stuka dive-bombers would not be deflected by promises of air support from London that were never honoured.
In this book, the truth finally emerges as to how the Australian, Greek, and New Zealand Governments were misled over key decisions that would define the campaign.
And as Peter Ewer writes at the end, there are lessons for today’s military and political leaders:
If the new research in this edition of Forgotten Anzacs shows us one thing, it is that it is a profound national miscalculation to think that the great and the powerful do anything but advance their own position. ….. And when it comes to these interests nothing is too sacred – least of all an honest discussion of the facts, for these are readily compromised among nominal friends. Australia and New Zealand – and the Greeks themselves – were persuaded to join the campaign in Greece on the back of half-truths, evasions and downright misrepresentations of the known facts. If we choose to honour the second, Forgotten Anzacs, it might best be done by avoiding such naivety in the future.
Well said, Peter Ewer.