Creforce: the Anzacs and the Battle of Crete, by Stella TzobanakisWW2, WW2 in Greece
Creforce: the Anzacs and the Battle of Crete is the dramatic story of the second Anzacs and their role in one of the biggest battles in the military history of Australia, New Zealand and its Allied forces during World War II.
The book is written for children 10 and up and explores the real-life `adventures’ and misadventures of more than 14,500 young Australian and New Zealand soldiers who were sent to the Greek island of Crete – famous for myths, Minotaurs and labyrinths – under the second formation of the Anzac Corps, to help defend it against Nazi Germany.
On 20 May 1941, Hitler launched Operation Mercury, the invasion of Crete which involved the first major action by paratroopers and the first large scale airborne invasion in history.
Hitler expected to capture the large island easily, but what he did not expect was mass resistance from the people of Crete.
A fierce 10-day battle followed where Anzacs and the people of Crete fought side-by-side to defend the mountainous and rugged island.
But by the 11th day, Crete fell to Germany. The Anzacs were left stranded on Crete. The people of Crete; prisoners of war.
A four-year war game of ‘hide and seek’. It was a `game’ that lasted four years and involved the people of Crete risking their own lives to shelter the Anzacs, help keep them alive by avoiding capture and starvation, and help them escape.
The bonds forged between the Anzacs and the people of Crete during this moment in history have lasted a lifetime.
Creforce: the Anzacs and the Battle of Crete is one of the first and possibly the only published books to tell the whole story of the Anzacs and the Battle of Crete, for younger readers.
The book includes never-before told, first-hand accounts of those that lived through the battle, and reveals the author’s personal Anzac story, discovered whilst writing this book. It also weaves in the battle stories of extraordinary and real-life `characters’ including:
· Roald Dahl: the famous British novelist and children’s author who was a fighter pilot.
· Charles Jager: the 20-year-old amateur lightweight boxer from Richmond, Melbourne who loved the racetrack and Greek classical stories.
· Charles Upham: the educated sheep farmer turned valuer from New Zealand who was single-minded, perservering, swore a lot and hated injustice.
· Reginald Saunders: the 19 year-old soldier who was the first Aboriginal Australian to be commissioned as an officer in the Australian Army.
· Horrie the Wog Dog: the little terrier who became an unofficial mascot. He was smuggled into Greece, evacuated, bombed off his ship and carried messages for the Allies, and
· the people of Crete: who have been likened in the book to Ned Kelly for their outlaw-style tactics as part of the Cretan resistance. The most notable is The Cretan Runner, George Psychoundakis, an uneducated, poor, young Cretan shepherd who became a decorated war hero for aiding British soldiers, including author, scholar, Patrick Leigh Fermor who has been described as a cross between Indiana Jones and James Bond.
About the Author
Creforce: the Anzacs and the Battle of Crete was written by Melbourne-based journalist Stella Tzobanakis whose parents are both from the Greek island of Crete.
The book is on the Premier’s Reading Challenge List across Australia. Books on this List are selected by the State Government to encourage children and students to read. It has also been selected by some schools in Australia and New Zealand as a classroom resource.
Although it is written for children aged 10 and up, it is also a good introduction for adults to a significant and complex military history event.
It uses first-person accounts and non-fiction to bring history to roaring life.
The 2020 edition is the second and includes an updated cover and content.
Its release is in the lead up to the global campaign, the 200 year anniversary in 2021 of the Greek War of Independence (see greece2021.gr for more details).
“The story of the second, largely forgotten Anzacs in Greece and Crete during World War II is one that is also, largely untold. It’s an extraordinary story and one that is relatively unknown, despite it being one of the biggest in Australia’s and New Zealand’s military history.
“The people of Crete and the Anzacs fought together, lived and survived together defending the island against the Germans. Of course, many also died.
“Although the battle with Nazi Germany lasted 10-days, the war lasted four years. The Anzacs were stuck on Crete and had to find ways to resist capture, starvation and escape the island. This `war game’ of `hide and seek’ involved the Cretans harbouring the Anzacs in their own homes, feeding them, clothing them and employing resistance tactics to help them flee the island such as kidnapping German General Heinrich Kreipe (a story so famous, it was made into the Hollywood film Ill Be Met By Moonlight starring Dirk Bogarde).
“The strong bonds forged during this wartime experience between the Anzacs, their families throughout the world, and the people of Crete continues to this day.
“Cities, monuments and even grandchildren in Australia, New Zealand and other Allied nations including Great Britain, have been named after places and people in Crete in honour of the battle and the involvement of the Anzacs.
“The town of Prevelly in Western Australia – near Margaret River – is one such place, created and named by Australian soldier Geoff Edwards as a way to thank the people of Crete. Preveli was the name of the monastery in Rethymnon, Crete, that sheltered and helped evacuate Edwards and other Anzacs in 1941.
“These events, these stories are significant and deserve more recognition and awareness.
“They are stories to be remembered and honoured.
“They are part of our story and they are unforgettable.”