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Kiwi war veterans return to Greek battlefield

Published: 8:11PM Saturday May 14, 2011 Source: ONE News

Some of New Zealand's very last surviving World War Two veterans flew to Greece today to mark the 70th anniversary of the battle for Crete.

Nearly 8000 New Zealanders were on the island of Crete when the battle broke out in 1941, after Nazi Germany launched an airborne invasion.

More than 2000 Kiwi soldiers were taken prisoner and 671 died during the 12-day battle.

Bill Bristow, 92, was one of the Kiwi soldiers who were captured. But after one month of imprisonment he managed to escape.

"We pinched the boat, a whole gang of us, [and] we sailed back to Egypt. We got bombed by the RAF and we got bombed by the Gerrys, and we got strafe by the Gerrys, but we beat the whole damn lot of 'em and we got there," he told ONE News.

Bristow, who was part of the18th Battallion of Pukekohe, said he lost two of his best friends in his platoon in Crete.

He said he also wanted to go back to Crete to say "Gidday" to them.

Bristow is making the trip with his daughter, Leone Jujnovich, who said she is happy to visit the place her father spoke of so often.

"When you actually go there, you just see the vastness and some of these mountains they've actually had to climb up and over," she said.

Roye Hammond is also returning to Crete to visit the place where lots of his friends are lying.

"They're in good hands there. I told my family in the event of me snuffing it while I'm over there, I'm more than happy to be buried with them," he said.

Hammond put the Kiwi men's survival in the battle of Crete down to the help of Greek locals.

"They put their lives on the line, their homes and everything else without question to help our blokes when they were on the loose after the battle," he said.