Wednesday, August 10, 2011

SOUDA BAY WAR CEMETERY

Dear Friends,


Recently, I traveled to Souda Bay on Crete with my friends from Northern Ireland, Paul and Karen, and Karen’s sons, Colin and Luke. It was a hot and sunny day as we traveled west toward Chania. When we rounded a bend in the narrow, twisting road, the Bay of Souda opened up before us. It is a natural bay and provides a perfect shelter for the ships of the Greek Navy, as well as those ships that are deployed under the banner of N.A.T.O. But, our real mission wasn’t to view the harbor or the ships going in and out. We were on a more serious…a more somber mission. Paul and Karen were taking me to visit the Souda Bay War Cemetery where over 1,500 men of the British Commonwealth rest. These are the men who fell while defending the island against the German invasion of Crete during the Second World War.


The cemetery sits at the far northwestern corner of Souda Bay. Its tranquil setting masquerades the horror and terror these men must have faced during the onslaught of the German invasion. Some of these young men were little more than boys…but they must be admired for their loyalty and patriotism for answering their Country’s call to duty.


When we stepped just inside the iron gates to the cemetery, I immediately knew that we were all standing upon hallowed ground…ground that had been sanctified by the blood of their countrymen. But, in a much greater sense, they were also MY countrymen as well…after all Great Britain and the United States were allies working toward the common goal of ridding the world from the blight of Nazism and Fascism. I knew that none of us was worthy to set so much as one foot upon that ground, but I felt a beckoning…a call from these men: “Come in. Walk amongst us. Stand beside us. Just never forget us or the sacrifices we made”. As I looked out, I could see nothing but row upon row of identical white stones, each marking the final resting place of these valiant men. It seemed a tragic irony that these men who died such violent deaths and so far from home should be settled in such a peaceful, blissful setting.


As I wandered amongst the stones, sometimes stopping to read a name here or a tribute there, I couldn’t help but notice how well-maintained and well-groomed the cemetery was. It could hardly be said the grass was mowed and trimmed - it was more like it had been manicured with the greatest care and with the utmost attention. There were also flowers and beautiful plants growing between each stone. The flowers, shrubs and bushes helped to create a more colorful and uplifting backdrop for the final resting place of these men.



As I walked from stone to stone, from row to row, from section to section, I seemed to lose track of time. But, time wasn’t really relevant – not really important…after all, time for these 1,500 men has stopped. All of these men, both young and old, have sacrificed all of their tomorrows for what they were able to do then and there. And the very least that we can do, is to pause and spend a little of our time in quiet recognition and appreciation for the terrible sacrifices they made. Rest in Peace my Brothers and may God hold you in the palms of His hands for all Eternity!


Your Friend and Fellow “Silent Warrior”,


Bob Armistead
ABOVE PHOTO: The
Cross and Sword stand
watch over the British
Commonwealth World
War Two Cemetery at
Souda Bay, Crete.

ABOVE PHOTO: Entrance to
 the BritishCommonwealth World War
Two Cemetery at Souda Bay, Crete.


ABOVE PHOTO:  Stone after stone,
row after row...British World War
Two Cemetery at Souda Bay, Crete.
ABOVE PHOTO:  A flower or plant
adorns either side of every stone at the
British World War Two Cemetery at
Souda Bay, Crete.






ABOVE PHOTO:  British World War
Two soldiers, airmen and seamen rest in
the Souda Bay War Cemetery.
ABOVE PHOTO:  1,500 soldiers of
the British Commonwealth lie in quiet
repose in Souda Bay War Cemetary.
  
ABOVE PHOTO:  Some of the
beautiful flowers that adorn each
gravesite at the British World War
Two Cemetery at Souda Bay,  Crete.

 

2 comments:

Jean Flannery said...

Thanks Bob, poignant words and pictures.

Jean Flannery said...

Very poignant, Bobby - both words and pictures. Thanks.