AZAC Arapiko

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Allied cemetery of Portianou

In the village of Portianou, the mansion where Winston Churchill, First Lord of the British Admiralty at the time, still remains standing. There also lies the second allied cemetery of Limnos.

Smaller, but of equal historic importance to the one of Moudros, it stands next to the church “Hisodia tis Theotokou”. In the tombs rest the relics of 352 fallen British, French, Canadian, Egyptian and Indian soldiers from the conquest campaign of Dardanelles, aged 17 – 56 years old. The complete identification data for the fallen came from Italy and the configuration of the cemetery had already began in August of 1915, during hostilities in Gallipoli, and was in use until 1920. The stone yard and the inclined gravestones were added three years later.


 

Allied cemetery of Moudros

Each year, hundreds of visitors across an entire hemisphere to pay tribute to a relative, friend, compatriot that rests on Lemnian land. Australians most of them ,but also travelers from other countries and nationalities arrive for a highly emotional pilgrimage to the Allied Cemetery of Moudros , in a historical monument that is -for a century now- connecting people from the far ends of the earth.

This well-tended cemetery is regarded as a global monument, located on the way to Roussopouli, where hundreds of dead soldiers of the Gallipoli expedition rest. 148 Australians and 76 New Zealanders but also people from other origins are buried in clusters according to their nationality.This trend of grief tourism seems to have reached this corner of Limnos. Descendants of the fallen and History devotees, thrilled by the events in Gallipoli (which were made into a film called “Gallipoli” starring Mel Gibson) visit the Allied Cemetery of Moudros.

A visit to this place is worthwhile to understand and appreciate the history of this land better, the dramatic events that took place in Dardanelles, where the now the peaceful Bay of Moudros was used as the headquarters of the operations.

Nearly half a century ago, in the sorrow of World War I, the Allied forces of Britain and France decided to start an expedition in order to conquer Dardanelles from the Turks, in order to permit their Russian allies in the “Entente” to pass through Hellespont with their ships and sail in the Aegean.

In Greece, Eleftherios Venizelos, hoping that the occupation of the Straits could aid the claiming of Constantinople, gave Britain the permission to use Limnos as a base of operations due to its strategic location.

The port of Moudros was turned into a naval station to accommodate the allied fleet whilst the southern beach that is called to this day “Aerolimenas” was turned into a landing site for seaplanes. At that point, more than five hundred ships where anchored in the bay and 30,000 soldiers were hosted in the area.

Despite the fact that World War I was no immediate threat to the territorial integrity of Australia, the former government of the country, as a member of the British Commonwealth and also due to the constitutional obligation towards Great Britain, decided to take part in the expedition. Thus, in 1915, the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) was established, and marked the first major military expedition of Australia.

In the beginning of March of that year, an initial force of 3.200 men arrived in Limnos. On April 25th 1915, the first invasion of ANZAC took place on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey. A total of 15.000 inexperienced Australian and New Zealand soldiers, under orders of British officers, disembarked on the shores of Gallipoli in Dardanelles.

This invasion, as well as many more subsequent attacks that followed until the ultimate end of the operation in 1916, resulted in a sorrowful tragedy. A total of 8700 Australian warriors perished in Gallipoli, along with 2,700 New Zealanders and countless British, French, Canadian, Egyptian, Indian and Turks. Turkish forces under the leadership of Kemal Ataturk, assisted by German and Austrian troops, not only repelled but decimated the allied army.

The injured soldiers were hospitalized in Limnos, in a field hospital set up in the village Sharpes (“Kallithea”) as well as on ships. Those that didn’t make it were entombed at the allied cemeteries of the island in Moudros and Portianou.

The road leading up to the Allied cemeteries of Moudros and Portianou is called the Anzac road , in honor of the fallen Australian and New Zealand troops of World War 1 , and a monument in honor of Australia has been erected at the entrance of the harbor of Moudros as a minimum tribute to the “Heroes of Limnos”.

This sacrifice on Gallipoli gave birth to a feeling of national unity in Australia and made the dream of the creation of the Australian Nation come true. Both countries established April 25th, the first day of the invasion in 1915, as a Remembrance Day of Anzac known as the Anzac day, in memory of the combatants, the wounded and dead Australian and New Zealander members of the expeditionary force. Since 1998, numerous memorial events have been established in Limnos, with tributes to the memoir of the lost members of the allied forces at the allied cemeteries.

Limnos, and especially the Bay of Moudros, had been a significant base in the Gallipoli campaign, offering supplies, shelter and nurture to the soldiers. Despite the tragic outcome of the campaign, the remaining Australians and New Zealanders were left with fond memories of Limnos owed to the whole-hearted support from locals. These memories subsequently assisted the smooth integration of Limnos immigrants in Australia in later times. In remembrance of life in Limnos, a suburb in the state of Victoria is also named after Limnos.


 

“Arapiko” Cemetery

Near the village of Portianou, in an imposing landscape by the sea, another cemetery was created during the First World War, the so-called “Arapiko”, in honor of the unknown dead buried in the wider region.

In remembrance of the historic event, a majestic granite cone fitted with marble stones overshadows dominantly the area. Unto the northern plate an inscription in English reads:” One hundred and seventy men of the Egyptian labor force are buried in this spot”. On the southern stone the inscription reads: “Fifty-five Turkish soldiers are buried close to this point.” referring most likely to prisoners from the operations in Gallipoli that were captured and passed away between 1917-1919. Two additional stones bear similar inscriptions in Arabic.

The minimality of the monument, the place it stands and its historical remembrance, evoke memories of the war to the visitor and make “Arapiko” Cemetery a special monumental place in the island.

To get there, start from Portianou and move southeast. Pass through the monument to the” fallen warriors of the community Portianou” and continue straight ahead, leaving the settlement behind. After driving the dirt road that is in good condition, you’ll have a view of the sea. Head left along the coast. After approximately 650 meters, you’ll see the monument on the left side of the road.

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