Emo­tional re­turn to Crete for vet­er­ans

Kapi-Mana News - - OUT & ABOUT - KRIS DANDO

‘‘I got into this per­sonal gun­fight with a young Ger­man outside this house – I fired three shots and missed him with ev­ery one. His third shot hit me in the leg quite badly and I went down.’’

Robin Lloyd wants to get the vet­er­ans back to Crete one more time. The re­tired po­lice­man, who lives in Pa­pakowhai, is lead­ing a group of former New Zealand sol­diers to the is­land in the Mediter­ranean this month.

Com­mem­o­ra­tions will be held there for the World War II bat­tle in 1941, in which more than 600 New Zealan­ders died and 2100 were cap­tured af­ter vi­cious fight­ing with Ger­man para­troop­ers.

In 2006 and 2011, Lloyd led groups to the com­mem­o­ra­tions for Bri­tish, Aus­tralian, New Zealand, Greek and Ger­man troops.

Lloyd’s fa­ther, who fought in World War II but not at Crete, made him prom­ise to work with vet­er­ans.

‘‘He said, ‘I want you to keep an eye on these fel­las’,’’ Lloyd said. ‘‘Well be­fore 2006 I would see on TV the trips to An­zac Cove and Cassino and thought, ‘What about Crete?’ We took 12 blokes there in 2006 and they had a blast.’’

The New Zealan­ders’ link with the Cre­tan vil­lagers pro­vides the most emo­tion and is what the vet­er­ans – just four will travel with Lloyd this year – look for­ward to most.

‘‘This place could not be fur­ther away from New Zealand, but it holds a spe­cial place in their hearts be­cause of what hap­pened in 1941, and the peo­ple who helped them,’’ Lloyd said.

An­thony Mad­den’s ex­pe­ri­ence on the is­land in May 1941 makes for a spine-tin­gling story.

The 95-year-old, for­merly of Auck­land, lives in Have­lock North these days. He can clearly re­call his ex­change of gun­fire with two Ger­man sol­diers in a small Cre­tan vil­lage.

‘‘I was a truck driver and was sep­a­rated from my unit,’’ he said. ‘‘I got into this per­sonal gun­fight with a young Ger­man outside this house – I fired three shots and missed him with ev­ery one. His third shot hit me in the leg quite badly and I went down. But I was able to get up and run away.’’

Mad­den got on a truck back to Maleme air­field, where his leg wound was dressed. He was to be evac­u­ated to a hospi­tal ship in the har­bour, but slept through the night and when he woke the ship had sailed.

He was cap­tured by the Ger­mans and de­posited in a pris­oner of war camp on Crete. A Cre­tan girl would give him food through the wire.

‘‘She was kind and I never for­got that gen­eros­ity.’’

Mad­den was even­tu­ally moved to aPOW camp in Ger­many, where he said he swept the streets of Mu­nich in his New Zealand Army uni­form.

Go­ing off to war was some­thing young New Zealan­ders looked for­ward to, Mad­den said.

‘‘In 1939, it was seen as an ad­ven­ture. I was on a ship, went to Egypt and Greece. It was a chance to get out of New Zealand.’’

Mad­den went to Crete in 1961 for the open­ing of a war ceme­tery, and kept in touch with peo­ple who helped him dur­ing the war, but didn’t re­turn there un­til the trip with Lloyd in 2006.

‘‘Some things haven’t changed but it is more mod­ern, with ho­tels. Trav­el­ling is not a prob­lem for me, so I’m very much look­ing for­ward to this trip.’’

Mad­den and Lloyd would like more assistance from the Gov­ern­ment to fund the vet­er­ans’ travel to Crete.

‘‘The Gov­ern­ment is for­get­ting about them – we’re rep­re­sent­ing New Zealand there, mak­ing speeches, rais­ing flags, lay­ing wreaths. More should be done,’’ Lloyd said.

Robin Lloyd, left, and Crete vet­eran An­thony Mad­den will head to Crete for the World War II com­mem­o­ra­tions.

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