A 97-year-old war veteran from New Zealand who fought against the Nazi forces in Crete in 1941 is making an emotional journey back to the Greek island.
Anthony Madden, a father-of-three from Hawke’s Bay in the North Island, was also shot and eventually taken prisoner by the Wehrmacht.
On Sunday he will take part in a commemoration ceremony to mark the Battle of Crete, being one of only a handful of New Zealanders left alive who took part in the WWII conflict.
Speaking to Kiwi news site Stuff, Madden was modest about his experience, saying: “I was pretty lucky. I came through it okay.”
The Battle of Crete will remain in military history as the scene of the largest German airborne operation of World War II. Around 6,700 New Zealanders took part in the conflict which lasted between May 20 – June 1, 1943.
Crete was targeted because of the British airfield on the island, which was more than capable of striking the vital Ploesti oil fields in Romania.
Hitler’s forces needed all the oil they could get for the impending assault on Russia. Securing Crete would be tantamount to driving the British out of the eastern Mediterranean; it would also be the first step towards Cyprus and the Suez Canal.
Madden was injured on the first day of the Axis assault after helping to transport POWs to Chania. He surprised a German paratrooper who shot him in the leg.
Despite escaping, and being patched up by doctors, Madden was left behind in the confusion at the harbor of Maleme. After Crete surrendered to the Germans, Madden was taken as a POW to the Reich itself.
Now, the widower will be returning one final time to the Greek island which saw so much suffering in WWII.