HMS Montrose Visits Souda Bay
In august 2013, HMS Montrose found herself alongside Souda Bay just a short distance from the British and Commonwealth War Cemetery located at the head of the bay.
In Crete during the Second World War, of a Commonwealth Force of 32,000 men, 18,000 were evacuated, 12,000 were taken prisoner and 2,000 were killed.
At the Souda Bay site, 1,502 of these Servicemen are buried or commemorated. The cemetery also contains 19 First World War burials, nine burials of other nationalities and 27 non-war graves.
Cognizant of the Cemetery’s existence, and the fact that a large number of warships that were lost in the area, the HMS Montrose Commanding Officer, invited members of his Ship’s Company to join him in paying his respects.
With no shortage of volunteers, a visit was arranged on the afternoon of 26 August 2013. Like all cemeteries maintained by the War Graves Commission, it is a deeply moving place and walking up and down the rows of fallen sailors, soldiers and airman , all the Montrose visitors found it impossible not to be humbled by the selfless sacrifice, borne out of a sense of duty, that remains an example to modern sailors.
Lt Cdr David Armstrong, one of the ship’s Principle Warfare Officers, remarked,
“Some 70 years after the majority of those remembered in Souda, so tragically, lost their lives it was a privilege and honour to pay our respect on behalf of the Ship’s Company.”
Cdr James Parkin, Commanding Officer, said afterwards,
“As the ship departs Souda to continue her operational deployment, the visit acted as a timely reminder of the fortitude, courage and potential sacrifice that is demanded, as a condition of service, of those who sail in Her Majesty’s Ships.
“To those lain to rest at Souda Bay – your duty is done, we will remember you”..
Press Release, September 17, 2013; Image: Royal Navy