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Courier Mail

Review of Diggers & Greeks

Author: Natascha Mirosch; Martin Crotty; Julia Ross; Alexander McRobbie
Publisher: News Ltd
Publication: Courier Mail , Page 24 (Sat 20 Mar 2010)
Edition: 1 - First with the news
Section: Non-Fiction books

Diggers and Greeks

Maria Hill

UNSW Press, $60.00

Available from the Kytherian World Heritage Fund

Email orders, here

SUB-TITLED The Australian Campaigns in Greece and Crete, this solid 500-page hardback deals with what some military historians called Australia's ``second Gallipoli''. Yet the doomed campaigns have received only a fraction of the attention paid to Gallipoli.

World War II zones where Australian troops served have been covered in many books. The Asia-Pacific region has received special attention because of its closeness to Australia.

The surrender at Singapore of an entire AIF division was a less-than-glorious episode in Australia's military history. In contrast, the victories of two divisions in the Middle East, and the stubborn defence of Tobruk, have been well chronicled.

Not so well covered is the part played by the AIF in the gallant but pointless campaign in Greece and Crete. For Australia, it was a time of disaster. More than 80 per cent of Australian prisoners of war were taken during these campaigns. Which is not to say that they surrendered without a fight - unlike what happened in Singapore.

Author Dr Maria Hill (born Costadopoulos) is a Greek-Australian and a professional historian. Her book contains many photos and maps that augment the text (which took her six years to research).

She unearthed facts that are contrary to some long-held beliefs about the Greek resistance to the Germans. She makes it clear that not all Greeks wanted to fight the Germans.

The existence of this fifth column contributed to the Diggers' rapid retreat from Greece to Crete - to become involved, along with the Kiwis, in another disaster. Veterans of the campaigns were never issued with a campaign medal, something that still rankles among the few who remain.

The book is an eye-opener and reveals how wartime propaganda helped create myths about Anglo-Greek co-operation.

Alexander McRobbie

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