Battles of Greece and Crete make for extra special Anzac commemoration at Ramsgate RSL Memorial Club

Sacrifice remembered: More than 1000 people attended the commemoration at Ramsgate RSL Memorial Club. Picture: John Veage
Sacrifice remembered: More than 1000 people attended the commemoration at Ramsgate RSL Memorial Club. Picture: John Veage

The Anzac day commemoration at Ramsgate RSL Memorial Club had extra significance this year for many residents of Greek ethnic background.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the second Anzac campaign in World War II, the battles of Greece and Crete.

Ramsgate commemoration: Roy Bernays, 92, who signed is father's signature in order to enlist. Picture: John Veage

Ramsgate commemoration: Roy Bernays, 92, who signed is father's signature in order to enlist. Picture: John Veage

Ramsgate RSL Memorial Club staged a series of events, including a photographic exhibition, in memory of the 17,000 Anzac soldiers who fought courageously against a much larger German army and air force to defend Greece.

More than 1000 people attended the Anzac Day commemoration, which started at 7am with the traditional march, followed by a memorial service.

The address was given by Roy Bernays, 92, who fought in that campaign.

Mr Bernays was too young to enlist, but signed his father’s signature on the form to gain acceptance.

Later, he was president and vice president of the club’s sub branch for 14 years, and is now the patron.

Mr Bernays related his experiences from the day, late in November 1940, when he sailed out of Sydney Harbour.

Mr Bernays said “nearly 700, or maybe a few more, good Australians were killed in that action”.

Many New Zealanders had also lost their lives.

”In Crete, they have a cemetery, I am told, and there is also one in Athens in Greece where all those men are buried.

“They are well looked after and that is beautiful.”

Mr Bernays finished his address with an exhortation not to change the Australian flag.

“I always say each and every Australian soldier, sailor or or airman that pays the supreme sacrifice is buried with that beautiful flag of ours,” he said.

”So we must not change that flag at all because it belongs to them.

“Change that flag and there will be no more Anzac Days – I can tell you that now.”

Another veteran of that era, Alex Middleton, 92, has been attending the service at Ramsgate RSL Memorial Club for 54 years.

Mr Middleton, who served in Borneo, said the numbers had grown from the “couple of hundred” who used to attend when the club was housed in a weatherboard hut.

“It’s lovely to see the kids,” he said.

​Family members were mourning the loss of their other grandfather and great grandfather Joe Byrne, who was a prisoner of war in Changi and Japan.

Mr Byrne died last year and this was the first time they had attended the event without him, granddaughters Karla and Lana Byrne said.