Fascinating Documentary, 'Anzac. Lemnos. 1915', Screened in Sydney Ahead of Official Release

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Anzac. Lemnos. 1915. is a one-hour documentary with a fresh angle on the well-documented Gallipoli campaign. Told for the first time on SBS free-to-air and On Demand.

On the evening of 24th of April 1915, 200 ships, one of the largest armadas ever assembled, sailed from Mudros Harbour in Lemnos for dawn landings at Gallipoli.

Throughout the campaign, Lemnos was used to practice landings and manoeuvres while also functioning as the base for wounded and sick soldiers and for vital R&R

“Lemnos is one of the great examples of a really important support base that we just don't understand because we limit our understanding to battlefield sites.” (Dr Rebecca Fleming)

The island became an early version of M*A*S*H for the campaign (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital). Medical procedures were pioneered in Lemnos – bacteriology, X-Rays, and ophthalmology – extracting glass shrapnel from eyes struck by shattered mirrors in trench periscopes.

50,000 Anzacs passed through Lemnos on their way to and from the frontlines, cared for by just 136 nurses, who tended to wounds never before seen in warfare with such limited  supplies that they tore their petticoats for bandages. They performed their duties through exhaustion and sickness with unflinching stoicism.

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“The word hero is often used military history. But I think we can regard these women as  heroines, as they would have said, because they put themselves last. They looked after their patients in terrible conditions, in terrible weather for months.” (Prof Peter Stanley)

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Multiculturalism mateship appeared with troops from Empire Forces fighting alongside Anzacs from the first landings. “Sikhs, Indians, Muslims, people from all around the world were there together in that nation-defining moment.” (Harjit Singh) And then shared “Johnny Cakes” (rotis, chapatis), dhall and goat curry with the Aussies on Lemnos. Our first taste and subsequent love of curry.

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Lemnos provided vital R&R. Fresh food, fruit, beer, wine and cognac were plentiful. At Therma, troops and nurses enjoyed hot mineral baths – their first in weeks. Legend has it  that Helen of Troy bathed there. So did Australian military legend, Brigadier-General John Monash.

R&R allowed troops and nurses to be tourists-for-a-day with Lemnians as their guides, experiencing the island’s rich history and mythology. New Australians in ancient Greece. And amidst the horror and sacrifice of that war, a heartrending story of new love between two young Australians that blossomed quickly only to be lost too soon in the fields further away in the Western Front.

The Gallipoli campaign which began from Lemnos also ended there, with the signing of the Armistice in Mudros Harbour on October 30th, 1918. 148 Australians and 76 New Zealanders remain in Lemnos buried in two Commonwealth war graves.

In 2023, the governments of Greece and Australia began a project of historical significance for both countries.

"The Lemnos Remembrance Trail, in its dual role as a memorial and as a means of education for younger generations and visitors to Lemnos will be a place to reflect on the service and losses that were experienced during the Gallipoli Campaign and to better comprehend the deeds of our forefathers”. (HE The Hon General David Hurley, Governor-General Commonwealth of Australia)

With stunning rare archival photography and the words from those who were there, Anzac. Lemnos. 1915. is a fascinating new chapter in Australia’s history of the Gallipoli campaign – a story of courage, sacrifice, resilience and enduring friendship.

The documentary screened for a selected audience in Sydney last week, receiving rave reviews.

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