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Govt announces commemorative plans for Crete

4 December 2000 Media Statement
Govt announces commemorative plans for Battle of Crete


Prime Minister Helen Clark today announced a secondary schools essay competition to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the Battle of Crete, with the winners to travel to commemorations on the Mediterranean island in May 2001.

"The Battle of Crete was a searing experience for New Zealand. Its conduct and outcome have been vigorously debated by historians of the Second World War," Helen Clark said.

"New Zealand casualties in the battle were considerable – 671 killed, 967 wounded and 2,180 taken prisoner of war.

"What is indisputable is that the Battle of Crete forged a powerful bond between New Zealanders and the people of Greece. The two countries are very good friends, and it is in this spirit that New Zealand will be sending its delegation to the sixtieth anniversary commemorations in May 2001.

"As with the commemoration of the eighty-fifth anniversary of the Anzac landings in Gallipoli, the government is again sponsoring a student essay competition.

"Senior high school students will be asked to write from the viewpoint of a New Zealand soldier or sailor who has survived the Battle of Crete, writing a letter home describing their experiences. An alternative second topic invites them to discuss why New Zealanders were fighting Germans in Crete."

The writers of the three winning essays, to be announced next April, will travel as part of the official delegation to Crete along with representatives of the Government, the New Zealand Defence Force and the Returned Services Association.

"The anniversary of the Battle of Crete will also be marked by the publication in May 2001 of an oral history of the Battle. This publication will ensure that the voices of those who participated in the Battle are not lost to future generations of New Zealanders.

"This project is being sponsored by the Ministry of Culture and Heritage.

Helen Clark said that her current plans were to travel to Crete for the commemoration. The newly-refurbished Greek/New Zealand memorial at Galatas will be rededicated at that time.

ENDS

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