Telling dad’s war story took years

03:01, May 12 2009
AMAZING STORIES: Graham Power was fortunate to hear many first-hand accounts of the battle by veterans in their 90s.

This Anzac Day will be especially poignant for one Mt Eden author as he releases his first book about a heroic World War Two battle.

Graham Power’s book, The Battle of Pink Hill – Crete, 1941, depicts the 12-day struggle on the Mediterranean island in which more than 670 Kiwis were killed.

He interviewed his veteran father Leslie Power for the book, agreeing to continue the interview at a later date.

But Leslie, who was evacuated from Crete on June 1, 1941, died of a heart attack in 1995 before they finished the story.

"We got as far as the landing on Crete.

"The interview with my father took over an hour and we only covered the first couple of years."

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Mr Power was determined to tell the story and spent six years working on the book. He visited Crete in 2005.

"Going to Crete was the highlight. It was a bit unreal – that people were killing each other left, right and centre. It is extremely peaceful now."

Of the nine veterans Mr Power spoke to during his research, four remain alive.

"I concentrate on this battle, my book is hopefully balanced because it shows the German side too," he says.

Mr Power’s wife, Josephine, says her husband has had a unique experience.

"He’s befriended all these vets," she laughs.

Mr Power’s daughter Hanna is also enthusiastic about the upcoming book.

"Now Dad has all these crazy friends. He has learnt a lot – got a lot out of it personally that he never expected."

Miss Power says her father was humbled by the hospitality shown when he visited Crete and the overwhelming gratitude to New Zealanders who fought alongside the Cretans.

Brian Duncan, a family friend, helped to proof-read Mr Power’s book and says it is an unusual version of the battle that was neglected by media.

"Graham has carefully gone about finding veterans and recording their remembrances. It is a really interesting view of the Battle of Pink Hill by the people who were there."

Mr Duncan says the author has been absolutely meticulous in his research.

The Battle of Pink Hill outlines the New Zealand soldiers on one side of the hill, armed with World War One rifles and determination.

On the other side of the hill was an elite regiment of over 2000 German paratroopers, who, in the past 18 months, had overpowered all opposition in Europe.

Despite the superior firepower of the German forces, the defenders successfully repelled every attack for six days.

On the third day was a spontaneous attack by old men, women and children armed with garden forks and ancient rifles, who forced the surprised Germans to flee. The defending forces were overpowered on the evening of the sixth day when German reinforcements arrived.

The Power family will hold a war-themed camouflage book launch.

Central Leader