Great grandchildren remember Crete veterans at ceremony

Hunter Hemson,10, and Theresa Schinke, 18, outside the National War Memorial in Wellington after the Crete anniversary ...
Richard London

Hunter Hemson,10, and Theresa Schinke, 18, outside the National War Memorial in Wellington after the Crete anniversary commemorations.

More than three quarters of a century after World War II, a new generation is taking up the mantle of remembrance.

A pair of great grandchildren, a Kiwi and a German, commemorated the 76th anniversary of the Battle of Crete on May 20. 

Hunter Hemson, 10,   from Wainuiomata and Theresa Schinke, 18,  from Ravensberg, Germany, each laid a wreath at the National War Memorial in remembrance of the 13 days of bitter fighting between Allied and Axis forces on the Greek island which began on May 20, 1942.

Hunter's great grandfather, Joe Stratford,  in his army uniform.
Stratford Family

Hunter's great grandfather, Joe Stratford, in his army uniform.

The gravity of wearing the medals of his great grandfather was not lost on Hunter who said he enjoyed the stirring experience.

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"The Battle of Crete was a serious moment and a lot of people lost their lives. I think it's a nice way to celebrate them.

"It meant a lot. I never got to meet Joe Stratford, so it was a big honour and responsibility to wear his medals."

Hunter's great grandfather   volunteered in Wellington for service the day war was declared and was captured on Crete before escaping and then working with the resistance.

He was recaptured and spent the rest of the war in a prison camp on the German/Polish border.

Stratford later settled in the Hutt Valley, becoming an active member of the Returned and Services Association.

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Schinke, who is in New Zealand on a gap year, had never attended a remembrance service. She thought the ceremony was a good way to remember those who fought at Crete.

 She  was offered a part in the service after translating a document for Paul London, the father of her host in Wellington and a former president of the NZ Battle of Crete Association.

A connection was established when she had her father in Germany check the translation and then discovered  her great grandfather, Josef Kirpal, was a paratrooper with the Fallschimjager who landed on Crete in 1941.

Initially unsure about participating in the event because of the history behind the battle, Schinke decided to take up the offer.

"I wanted to show time has moved on and we have learned from our mistakes."

Ministry of Culture and Heritage heritage projects manager Brodie Stubbs said Schinke's involvement was a happy coincidence and to his knowledge, this was the first time great grandchildren from formerly opposing combatants had laid wreaths at a national commemoration at the National War Memorial.

It had  become practice in recent years to involve youth representatives from the main countries involved in the conflict being commemorated.

 - Hutt News

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