The Alf Page

Alf

The ALF page is mostly about Alf. Well, what did you expect? Alf is an honoured guest at the White Lady. He fought in the Battle of Crete in 1941, was wounded, captured and finally released in 1945. He first visited the White Lady when he returned to Crete for the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Crete, and became a firm favourite of just about everybody.

This year, 2014, is both the 73rd Anniversary of the Battle of Crete and the year of Alf's 94th birthday (I think, though the maths does not work out well). Unfortunately he is no longer able to be with us each year as his health is not so good. Alf, you know we always drink a raki or two in your honour.

Although this page tells Alf's story, it is dedicated to all those ordinary people who gave their lives in the Battle of Crete, ordinary people who, for one reason or another, found themselves caught up in a war, a war not of their choosing, but a war through which they were forced to struggle for survival and for which many paid the ultimate sacrifice. We will remember them.

Alf's story

RA Cap Badge

Most of this story has been compiled from newspaper reports, two English, one Greek that were published in 1997 and, of course from talking to Alf himself. In 1941, at the age of 19, Gunner Alfred Hay, along with 53 others of Right Troop, 234 89th H.A.A. Regiment of the Royal Artillery, was to be found serving in Chania on the island of Crete. On 20th May, 1941 German paratroopers were dropped into the island beginning what has become known as the Battle of Crete.

For more information on the Battle of Crete see the References section below.

Alf was wounded in the legs by a grenade while sheltering in a trench. He was one of the "lucky" ones who was captured and taken prisoner. Only seven of Alf's troop survived. Alf himself spent three months in Soudha, just outside Chania in a camp. He was then moved to Thessaloniki and then later to prisoner of war camps in Germany. He was liberated in 1945 by the Allies.

Alf presents to Yiannis & Antonia
White Lady presents the Greek flag to Alf

Alf's love for the people of Greece, and particularly for the people of Crete, is such that he has returned many times to the island for the commemorative anniversaries of the Battle of Crete. It was during one of these visits that he first came to the White Lady and met Yiannis and Antonia. Alf was so impressed by the welcome he received that he presented the White Lady with a commemorative plaque which now hangs in the taverna on the "Alf Wall". Yiannis and Antonia presented Alf with a Greek flag. Alf then decided to move to Crete, and lived next door to Antonia's mum in Tsesmes for a number of years.

One year, when I was visiting the White Lady, Alf aked me if I could find out where in Thessaloniki he was held before being moved on to Germany. All he could tell me was that it was no great distance from the railway station. I was talking to a Greek friend about this one day and he told me that his mother remembered Allied soldiers escaping from Ayios Pavlos army camp which was at that time being used as a prison camp. They escaped through the sewers and were sheltered by some of the local people before being smuggled out of the city by the Resistance. They must have smelled terribly as there was little or no water available for washing. My friend's mother says that everyone was frightened that the soldiers would be found because of the smell and that they themselves would be arrested. When I told Alf the story, he remembered the incident, so it would seem that I found the place he was held in. The army camp is indeed close to where the railway station was at the time.

Royal Hospital Chelsea

In October 2005, Alf moved back to the UK to take a well deserved place as a Chelsea Pensioner. So, wherever and whenever the Chelsea Pensioners parade, look out for Alf. He will, he reminds me, be back for the anniversaries of the battle of Crete, when there will be, as there has been for a few years now, a party, to celebrate the liberation of Crete, but more importantly to remember those who gave their lives in the Battle of Crete.

Alf Plaque1
The Plaque

In May 2007, Alf returned to Crete for the annual commemoration of the Battle of Crete and for the White Lady 20th Anniversary celebrations. During the final event of the celebrations Alf was presented with a commemorative plaque by Father Dimitrios (the parish priest of Tsesmes and Agia Triadha) on behalf of the White Lady.

References

I had intended to write much more about the Battle of Crete when we decided to re-write the site, but I discovered such a wealth of information already on the Internet that I decided just to share with those who are interested a few references. So here they are:

"Until now, we knew that Greeks were fighting like heroes; from now on we shall say that the heroes fight like Greeks." - Winston Churchill, on the Battle of Crete.

"The Battle of Crete lasted 10 days. Crete fell, but never surrendered. There would be an 11th day... And they would pay." - Geórgios Tzíkas, fighter, Petrakogiórgis Resistance Group.

Compiled by the Webmaster