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Remembering the ANZACs of Crete's 42nd street

The waters off Crete saw a desperate evacuation in World War II, one made possible by ANZAC forces."

As Australia and New Zealand commemorate the centenary of the endeavours of the ANZACs in the Great War, a spotlight is also being shone on the heroic actions of the corps' second generation - the Australian and New Zealander forces that held off the advancing German army on the island of Crete.

Thanks to the efforts and contributions of government and veterans organisations, and families of the soldiers who fought at Crete, the Battle of 42nd Street has now been memorialised - a testament to the ANZAC spirit.

The Battle of 42nd Street

As May 1941 began, the situation in Greece and Crete looked quite dismal. The German army had forced the Commonwealth forces off the mainland. While some made their way to Egypt, 42,000 British, Australian, New Zealand and Greek forces held fast on Crete, according to NZ History. With German ambitions firmly set on taking the island, Crete's defence fell to these troops.

ANZAC defenders were able to inflict over 200 casualties on the German forces, buying evacuating troops enough time to escape.

Beginning on 21 May, German troops began an air assault at Heraklion, Retimo and Malame. Though the Allies fought fiercely, inflicting numerous casualties among the German paratroopers, the island slowly succumbed to the invasion. By 27 May, the second ANZACs formed the rearguard, protecting the evacuating forces at Sfakia from a defensive position on 42nd Street - a two-kilometre stretch of road.

When the German 5th Alpine Division - an elite force - reached 42nd Street, Australian defenders and the 28th Maori Battalion launched a bayonet charge. Thanks to their ferocity and the element of surprise, the ANZAC defenders were able to inflict over 200 casualties on the German forces, buying the evacuating troops enough time to escape.

The remaining defenders were split - some made it to the evacuation site, others were captured by the German forces and a select few took to the mountains where they were hidden by the people of Crete.

Remembrance in Crete

On May 19, the Battle of 42nd Street was commemorated with the dedication of a memorial to the ANZACs who held off the German advance. Glenda Humes, the daughter of an Australian soldier who survived the battle and evaded capture in the mountains, was a key driver in the campaign to place a memorial at 42nd Street. Along with dignitaries from Greece, Australia and New Zealand, Humes was present at the dedication ceremony.

The people of Crete remember the actions of ANZACs in the Battle of 42nd Street.The people of Crete remember the actions of ANZACs in the Battle of 42nd Street.

According to ABC, fundraising efforts by veterans' families and the Greek Australian community were instrumental for the memorial's installation. A further $30,000 donation from the Department of Veterans' Affairs was key in making sure the memorial was fully funded in time for the commemorative events.

In an indication of the gratitude of the people of Crete to those ANZAC forces, the Municipality of Chania also contributed to the memorial - in spite of the depressed economic conditions throughout Greece.

The spirit of camaraderie that helped fund and instal the memorial is reflective of the same spirit that fuelled the last stand on Crete over 70 years ago, as well as the Cretans who sheltered soldiers in the mountains.

"I felt it was right to recognise this battle, fought by the second ANZACs. Aussies and Kiwis fighting side by side."

"Given what took place there, I felt it was important to honour the memory of all those who fought and fell in that place," Ms. Humes said, as reported by ABC.

"As we commemorate the ANZAC centenary, I felt it was right to recognise this battle, fought by the second ANZACs. Aussies and Kiwis fighting side by side."

Interconnect Systems has a comprehensive background in aerospace and defence engineering, being an industry leader for more than 20 years. It provides electrical interconnect products and solutions, including cable and wire harness manufacture. For more information on the best backshells and cable harness solutions, contact Interconnect Systems today on 1800 812 214 FREE.

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