The Last Post at sunset aboard the troopship HMAT Euripides (A14). Photo: Merchant seaman engineer Denver Wood Wansey. AWM.
Lemnos and the Greek Australian odyssey of the Tarlamis family
This month we commemorate the Centenary of Anzac and the role of Greece – and specifically Lemnos – in that story.
As Australia’s diggers arrived on Lemnos from March 1915, they began a connection with Greece that would be enriched through the years. One of the aspects of this is that today there are Australian families who can count both Aussie diggers and Lemnian villagers in their family history. One of those is Lee Tarlamis. A product of a Lemnian father and a mother from Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, Lee’s forebears walked the same shores of Mudros Bay all those years ago in 1915. This is their story.
Blackburn’s Private Tozer goes to Lemnos
On 25 August 1914, Edward Rees Tozer began his journey that would take him to war. A railway employee, Edward was born in Blackburn and was 24 years old when he enlisted in the 4th Battalion at the Kensington enlistment centre in Sydney.
Embarking from Sydney Harbour in October 1914, now Private Tozer arrived in Egypt in December 1914. Photographs taken by diggers at the time show Edward’s battalion training for the struggle ahead, camped beneath the ancient pyramids. The laconic sensibility of these diggers is reflected in the words of one in response to a question of what he thought of these great feats of engineering – “What I sez is, when you’ve seen one you’ve seen the lot!”
Like all diggers who went to Gallipoli, Edward would spend time at the main base for the campaign – Lemnos. The first time he came to the island was when he arrived from Egypt in April 1915. In the few weeks before the landings, Edward would have practiced embarking and landing procedures, taking part in mock attacks and other training for the battle ahead. He may have enjoyed some leave to visit the villages around Mudros Bay. At noon on Saturday 24 April, Edward sailed out of Mudros Bay on the troopship Michigan. After an anchorage in the Bay of Pournia on Lemnos’ north-east coast, they sailed to the Dardanelles – the diggers following in the wake of Odysseus and his warriors on their own voyage to another battlefield at Troy as Homer had recounted.
Edward and the 4th Battalion would be part of the second and third waves of Anzacs landing at Anzac Cove on the 25th April. Over the coming months, Edward took part in some of the bloodiest and key battles of the campaign – securing and defending the beachhead in April and beyond and the great and ultimately futile battle of Lone Pine in August. In the first days alone, the battalion suffered more than 200 casualties, including battalion commander Lieutenant Colonel A.J.O. Thompson, who was killed. The machine gun, sniper and artillery fire suffered by the battalion was like being in “hell”.
Like many others, Edward succumbed to illness after surviving the battle of the beachhead, being diagnosed with the then deadly influenza on 1 May. He boarded the Hospital Ship Gascon for Egypt on 4 May, arriving in Egypt on 7 May. His illnesses would become worse before it improved, his flu developing into pleurisy, then a vein disorder and finally an infection of scabies. It would not be until 18 November that Edward would return to Lemnos and Gallipoli. Finally, Edward and his unit were evacuated on 20 December, leaving at 4.30 am and arriving at Mudros five hours later.
On Lemnos, Edward was camped at the Anzac camp at Sarpi (an ancient settlement pre-dating the Ottoman-era meaning ‘wooden house’, modern day Kalithea). Time was spent on parades, cleaning up the camp and the distribution to the men of sheepskins, puddings and ‘billies’ from the Australian Comforts Depot. The 4th Battalion departed Sarpi Camp at 9.30 am on 24 December, embarking on the HMTS Simla from Sarpi Pier.
Spending Christmas aboard the ship, Edward departed Mudros Bay and Lemnos for Egypt in afternoon of the 26 December, never to see Lemnos again. He would serve in western France with his comrades, surviving a gunshot wound in August 1916.
An Aussie on Lemnos
We don’t have any documentary evidence of what Edward did on Lemnos but he may have enjoyed some of the experiences the other diggers did. During his four days back on Lemnos, he might have enjoyed leave to visit the nearby villages of Agkariones, Portianou, Kontias, Tsimandria and even the hot thermal baths of Therma.
He might have mingled with the Australian and Canadian nurses at the nearby Australian hospitals, across the inlet from Sarpi on the Turks Head Peninsula – a common jaunt for the diggers on Lemnos, or visited the graves of his comrades at Portianou’s cemetery – Sydney’s Private Arthur Anderson, Scotland’s Private Kenneth Cameron and Lance Corporal Frank Rice, born in Derby, England. Frank died as Edward was returning to the peninsula and Kenneth while Edward was in the trenches.
In leaving the rest camp at Sarpi he would almost certainly have met local Lemnians on the roads around the island. Like other diggers he might have hired a donkey, bought food or sat in the kafenia enjoying the wines of the island. And this is how he may well have rubbed shoulders with members of the local Tarlamis-Karamaloudis-Galimitis family.
From Asia Minor to Lemnos and Australia
At the time, the Tarlamis-Karamaloudis family lived in the villages of Tsimandria and Akgariones. In a few years time, they would marry refugees from the catastrophe in Asia Minor, from the island of Koutali in the Propontis (or Sea of Marmara) – an area that in 1915 had been the focus of the Allied campaign.
Koutali (modern day Ekinlik) – shaped like a spoon with its Profitis Ilias rising above the sea – was a prosperous Greek-populated island whose roots dated back to the seventh century BC. Its more than 1,800 residents were famed as fishermen, sponge divers and traders. And Koutali’s wealth had created its many mansions, numerous public buildings, two schools and four churches, including the Church of the Virgin Faneromeni, which sat near the harbour.
One of Koutali’s most famous residents was the legendary Greek wrestler and weightlifter Panagiotis Antoniou Kaliodzis, son of Antonis Kaliodzis, born in Koutali in 1847. He toured throughout Europe and America in the late 19th century with his wrestling exhibitions, defeating wrestling champions and tackling wild animals. There are many posters advertising his appearances, including in Uruguay.
As the fighting came to the Dardanelles in 1915, Koutali would bear witness to the war. Not only are its waters where Australia’s famous submarine – the AE2 – was scuttled to avoid capture but it was near here that another and more successful Allied submarine – the Scottish Captain Naismith’s E11 – would hide after its many raids into the Marmara. The E11 sank many Ottoman vessels and even sailed into Constantinople’s harbour itself in 1915, and as a result earn its captain a Victoria Cross.
But the war would bring the Greek population the first of their forced removals by the Ottoman authorities. And in 1922 they would be forced to flee their homeland again – this time permanently, many of the survivors making their way to Lemnos. Joined by other Greek refugees from Asia Minor – from Reis Dere, Gallipoli, Cesme and beyond – they established the new village of Nea Koutali in 1926.
One of the experienced sponge diving families from Koutali to arrive on Lemnos were the Galimitis. Familiar with the waters of Lemnos, they had dived and fished here before 1922. The museum at Nea Koutali showcases the pride of this village in its seafaring and Asia Minor origins.
Before too long the new arrivals would marry into the other families in the villages nearby. The Galimitis family, whose origins lay in Koutali and Asia Minor, would marry into the Karamaloudis of Tsimandria, linking them with the Tarlamis Akgariones. These families can still be found living in Nea Koutali, Tsimandria and Akgariones today.
A Greek Australian odyssey comes together
In 1953, Kon and Fanoula Tarlamis left Tsimandria with their young baby Sam on a migration journey that would take them to Uruguay (following in the footsteps of the great Koutilianos) and eventually to Australia. It was here that Sam would meet a young woman, Glenda Barber from Burwood. Her great-uncle was the young digger Edward Tozer who had walked on Lemnos in 1915.
Sam and his wife would have a son, Lee, who would go on to become a member of parliament and champion the recognition of Lemnos’ role in Australia’s Anzac story. His name resonates with both the Profitis Ilias on Lemnos and far away Koutali. Reflecting on Edward’s voyage to Lemnos and Gallipoli in 1915, Lee has visited Lemnos many times and walked in the footsteps of his forebears.
The link embodied in Lee’s connections to both the villagers of Lemnos and the diggers of 1915 is one of the inspirations driving him to gain more recognition for Lemnos’ role in Australia’s Anzac story. It has driven his work to mark the centenary with the major new memorial commemorating the role of Lemnos to be unveiled in Albert Park in August and a major commemorative publication in January next year.
The discovery of Lee’s story shows how the Centenary of Anzac can reveal the depths of the links between Australians and Greeks. Of how the tragedy of war can link peoples and give new life in distant shores.
Lest we forget.
In April Lee and other members of Melbourne’s Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee will be taking part in the major commemorative events taking place on Lemnos. They have assisted in coordinating events on the island, liaising with the Australian and Canadian embassies, the Lemnian authorities and both the Hellenic and Royal Australian Navies. The events include a visit by HMAS Success, services at both Commonwealth Military Cemeteries on Lemnos, a football match recreating that played by the Anzacs in 1915 on Lemnos – amongst other events. The committee hopes that this year’s events on Lemnos are only the beginning of refreshing the links between Greece and Australia through the Anzac story.
* Jim Claven is a freelance writer, historian and secretary of the Melbourne-based Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee. He is researching the Anzac trail on Lemnos and Greece, and has led commemorative tours throughout Greece. Jim can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org