Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy
Welcome in Greece
Welcome in Greece
The welcome was warm. There were smiling faces everywhere. Crowds cheered and waved, some threw flowers into the trucks, others shouted greetings. On all sides the cry was ‘English! Welcome!’
Through Athens, and into a quiet country atmosphere of rolling olive groves carpeted with wild flowers and shrubs, went 1 General Hospital until it reached Kephissia, a pleasant modern suburb, where it stayed in the 26 British General Hospital's area.
As each unit arrived in Greece it was given a brief rest in Hymettus camp before going forward to positions in the line. The camp was pleasantly situated in a spreading plantation of small pines and cypresses. Some of the men played marbles with the youngsters who crowded around, as do curious children the world over. Here commanding officers warned their men that the German Legation was still in Athens and that they were to keep their mouths shut.
For a few days the New Zealanders had an opportunity to explore Athens, to master a new currency, to get to know a most hospitable people, and to enjoy an atmosphere which was much more like home than that of Egypt. Leave in Athens was an experience to be remembered. Besides exploring its shopping areas, its tiny wine cafés and its modern restaurants, many New Zealanders made pilgrimages to the hill of the Acropolis and the Parthenon, and climbed the slopes of Mount Lykabettos. Wherever they went they were welcomed, and the hospitality of the Greeks was at once warm, spontaneous, and sincere. Although the city still preserved some air of gaiety, it was the capital of a country at war. Meat was already rationed to one day a week, there was a shortage of sugar, and Greek households had little fuel.
While there was an opportunity to see a little more of the city the New Zealanders made the most of it, finding their way by car and on foot to every farthest corner of the capital. They strolled in the parks and along miles of tree-lined streets. Some visited the King's Palace gardens, there to make friends with the famous page 69 kilted Evzones, remembering (some of them) that men worthy of the legendary heroes of Homer were even at that moment in Albania creating fresh material for legend.
Their admiration for the Greek people became the greater the more they saw of them. They were splendid folk, and at times, particularly in the smaller villages, it seemed that from the youngest child to the oldest greybeard, every living soul was doing his or her utmost for the war effort. Even the poorest had nothing but friendship and generosity with which to meet all. They were honest in the highest degree, hard workers, touchingly sincere in their hatred of Mussolini and in their welcome.