Campaign to find lost Diggers of Greece begins

first_imgA concerted effort is being made to find and identify the remains of Australian soldiers who fought and died during the Greek campaign in WWII, and who 72 years later still lie buried in unmarked graves.Research being led by a team of amateur historians in Melbourne and Sydney is seeking to unravel the mystery of 26 Australian troops killed-in-action and who are unaccounted for, who were reportedly buried by the Germans in April 1941 as Nazi forces swept through northern Greece.One member of the group, Mr Lachlan McPherson, believes the remains of more than 20 soldiers of the 2/8th Australian Infantry Battalion who fought at Vevi are likely to be located near the battle site. Mr McPherson told Neos Kosmos: “I’m convinced that there are more than 20 soldiers from the 2/8th Battalion buried in unmarked graves.“We have a list of around 26 Australians unaccounted for who we think are there.”Mr McPherson travelled to Canberra last month to present the group’s findings to the Australian War Memorial as part of a campaign to bring the matter to the attention of the Australian government. “We want the government to take some action on this,” said Mr McPherson.The Australian Army’s Unrecovered War Casualties unit is responsible for investigating assertions of the discovery of Australian wartime human remains and the whereabouts of alleged burial locations of Australian servicemen. Vevi, 16 kilometres south of the Yugoslav border, was the site of the first engagement between Australian and German troops during the Greek campaign in WWII. Standing at the narrow end of the Monastir Valley and surrounded by steep hills, the Vevi Pass was in theory a naturally strong defensive position. On 9 April 1941, troops from the 2/4th and 2/8th Australian Infantry Battalions, as well as British, Greek and NZ units began taking up positions at Vevi. Their job was to hold the advancing Germans long enough to allow the withdrawal of Greek forces in Macedonia and Albania.The Germans first attacked Allied forward positions two days later and despite being exhausted from a long march and bitterly cold weather, the 2/8th managed at first to fend them off. Confronted with a heavier German onslaught the next day, the battalion was outflanked and unable to hold its ground. A confused withdrawal resulted, which effectively destroyed the 2/8th as an effective fighting force for the rest of the campaign. Although the Vevi Pass was not held as long as was intended, its defence achieved its aims.Allied casualties at Vevi are estimated at some 60 killed-in-action, with 28 Australian soldiers dead. 480 British Commonwealth troops were taken prisoner.The group’s research has also recently revealed details of possible unmarked Australian war graves at Corinth. At least 12 soldiers of the 2/6th Battalion who were killed in the battle for the Corinth Canal are believed to lie in unmarked graves near Corinth dug by the Germans.Lambis Englezos, instigator of the campaign which located and identified the remains of 250 Commonwealth soldiers who died at Fromelles in WWI (who is not involved with the Vevi or Corinth research) told Neos Kosmos that all credible projects which attempt to find, identify and give soldiers a proper marked burial place should be commended.“We have a moral obligation to do this. If you can find your war dead you have to recover them. They can’t be a financial or logistical inconvenience.“If the research is solid the officials will take it up and look for it,” said Mr Englezos.“If you lose someone, you’ve got to get them. Don’t leave them in anonymous ground. Give them their dignity, and hopefully their identity.” Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagramlast_img

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