Empire Patrol Poems

 

 

Known poems about the Empire Patrol Disaster are listed below. Any additional poems in English or in Greek that exist would be appreciated for this website. Three poems have been provided to date.

 

 

The following poem on the tragedy of the sinking of the Empire Patrol was written in Greek, in September 2003, by Mr George Bafitis of North Dandenong, Victoria, Australia as a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the disaster. We are very grateful for Mr Bafitis’ kind permission to publish it on this website. As the author notes, the poem is a resume of the tragedy of the of the sinking of the Empire Patrol and he dedicates it to his Kastellorizian friends of Perth WA and generally to all wherever they may be in Australia. For the benefit of the non Greek speaking readers I translated the poem into English.

 

Apologies are extended to Mr Bafitis if unintentionally some errors occurred in the translation. It is a very moving poem with a delightful free flowing rhythm which is, as expected, impossible to capture in a language other than the one that it is written. The translation at least familiarizes the content of the poem to the non Greek speaking readers whilst its inclusion in this segment in its original Greek format tells “the story” for all Kastellorizians to appreciate.

 

Dr Paul Boyatzis

Perth, Western Australia

 

 

The Empire Patrol Disaster 29 September 1945

 

Few days before Megisti was destroyed during the War, the decision was taken by the British allies to transport the inhabitants far from their island.

 

They took over 1000 persons to Palestine which at that time was still free.

They lived there for about 2 years where the allies showered them with love and kindness. During the time they lived in exile each wrote their own story.

 

They waited with hidden hope that soon they would return to their beloved homeland to start their life again as the enemy destroyed whatever they had on the island.

 

And lo and behold the blessed hour had arrived for them to leave the refugee camps where they lived until now.

 

September the 29th was the day which for Kastellorizians will remain unforgettable.

With few words today I will try to explain to you the tragedy that occurred.

 

The allies sent to Egypt a boat to pick up the Kastellorizians and transfer them

to their island as they had suffered enough in the camps.

 

All were happy and anticipated the hour when they would leave the foreign land.

They waited two years to return to their houses and homeland.

 

At Port Said arrived the British boat to collect the last group of refugees.

They embarked the day before it sailed taking with them all their possessions.

 

They bedded down to rest and to sleep for a while.

The following day, in the morning, September the 29th, the boat set sail.

 

It was 7.30 in the morning, the sea was slightly rough and on the boat unusual calmness prevailed. At around 12.30 in the afternoon cries were heard. “The Ferry is on fire.”

 

All passengers were in their cabins with the mothers preparing to feed their children. Soon after, screams and sirens were heard everywhere with women and children crying in their cabins.

 

Panicking women were holding their children with others having their infants tightly on their chests, trying to find an exit amongst the fire and smoke.

 

They left their belongings behind and were running hurriedly to reach the deck and save themselves.

 

The wooden stairs were burning like candles and the cries of the refugees were to be heard everywhere.

 

When they managed to reach the back of the ship they found only four lifeboats to accommodate all the passengers. Fear and panic was evident everywhere with the crew telling the passengers that help was not far away.

 

The fire did not take long to engulf the boat which was in danger of sinking

and killing the people.

 

Boats for help were yet to arrive and those on board were throwing themselves

in the sea in order to save themselves.

 

When the rescuing craft picked up with difficulty the unfortunate people,

amongst them were many injured and thirty five had needlessly perished.

 

In the press at that time many articles appeared as to how the fire started

and who was responsible for its cause.

 

The enquiry that took place in order to find the cause was, as they say in Australia,

“a kangaroo court”.

 

The shipwrecked were not invited to narrate the drama which themselves had lived through. Twenty eight witnesses appeared at the enquiry with only one Greek present.

 

That was the reason why at the enquiry the truth didn’t come forth as to the start of the fire and delay in the rescue.

My little blessed island Kastellorizo you resemble a well prepared communion altar bread.

Megisti, eternal island, birthplace of heroes and mother of the strong and of many captains; they baptized you Megisti and as long as you exist, may you be a diamond in that corner of the Mediterranean.

 

Following the total burning and the fire’s ashes, your children scattered widely and left you lonely. Gone the Kastellorizians, who left you isolated and settled in America and Australia. They created families and acquired reaches but they never forgotten September the 29th. Fifty years have now passed and your children that survived have now reached old age. Those that are alive and reside in Australia narrate to their grandchildren that experience.

 

George K Bafitis

Dandenong North

 

Original Greek Text

 

    

                                 

 

                                    

 

 

 

 

Poem dedicated to the tragedy of the “Empire Patrol” 29th September 1945

 

The poem that follows was written by Mrs Maria Kyriakou Louka (nee Savva) and Mrs Katina Verevis (nee Simonidi) who were both survivors of the tragedy of the Empire Patrol disaster in September 1945.

 

It was dedicated to the survivors and those who perished, on the occasion of the 40th Anniversary Memorial Service in September 1985. The Service was held at the Monastery of St John of the Mount, Forrestfield, Perth Western Australia.

 

The Poem translates broadly along these lines:

 

Let us tell you what happened in 1945.

A boat full of refugees caught fire and sank tragically.

We were resting in our berths when we heard the captain shout “On to the decks or we will burn to death.” And shouted again; “All on the decks the fire is spreading.”

We were sea sick and did not realize that we were about to burn in the cargo hold like mice.

 

Our Mr Gikas’ son, Aristidis, climbed onto the bridge and signaled the S.O.S. A ship arrived and approached our bow throwing life boats and logs of wood in the sea to rescue the people floating in the water, whilst low flying airoplanes were providing us with life saving equipment and medicines.

 

Our Andonis Boyatzis was holding the rope and was securing young children on the life boats..

Many of our compatriots were lost in the sea and others burned in the cargo hold like mice.

Those that were saved, barely clothed ,were taken temporarily to Port Tawfik where they awaited for the first opportunity to find another boat and depart as soon as possible.

 

Forty years passed since that day and all of us who survived are choked with emotion.

Girls put on your black dresses and appear like nuns for the 33 who perished you will never see again.

 

And always we and our children shall remember and be proud of our fond ancestry.

 

Dr Paul Boyatzis.

Translator

 

Original Greek Text

 


         

 

 

 

 

From Recollections of Leading Seaman Herbert Bunting

 

Leading Seaman Herbert Bunting recalls - "The H.M.S Trouncer was at the rescue of refugees from the Empire Patrol in September 1945. One of the officers wrote this poem about the Empire Patrol rescue. I have kept it all these years."

WW2 People's War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. These documented recollections by Leading Seaman Herbert Bunting enabled this poem, dedicated to the Empire Patrol, to be reproduced on this website. The archive can be found at www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar


Empire Patrol


S.O.S! S.O.S! I’m on fire, she flashed
And the Trouncer slews round and away she dashed
To the scene of the tragedy miles away
Where many were lost on this luckless day
Poor Empire Patrol.


“She’s ablaze like a torch,” Trouncer’s captain said
“Now let our great hanger take many a bed.
Strong swimmers will muster with no more delay
For there are souls in the water on this luckless day.”
Poor Empire Patrol.


“Stand by all you boat crews, now lower your boats
And you on the flight deck, away Carley floats.
Off you go you strong swimmers, now make your play
There are men to be saved on this luckless day.”
Poor Empire Patrol.


And into the water tho, heavy the swell
Went boats, Carley, rafts; strong swimmers as well
While yet in the hangers we tried S.BA.
Stood by for the survivors on this luckless day.
Poor Empire Patrol.


The air force was there with a plane in the sky
Dropping smoke floats as marker for those drifted by
And many the men who had drifted away
Owed his life to that aircraft on this luckless day
Poor Empire Patrol.


First women and children, the poor victims of fate
Who will never forget to this September date?
For when they’ll remember, they’ll stop and they’ll pray
For the men of the Trouncer on this luckless day.
Poor Empire Patrol.


Now faster they come and yet even faster
As the boats loaded up, move from disaster
And the swimmers bring in those gone astray
There are heroes aplenty on this luckless day.
Poor Empire Patrol.


The news from the Trouncer flashed back to the port, said
The number rescued, the number of dead
Yet evenings closing, the sky’s getting grey
And there are still some adrift on this luckless day.
Poor Empire Patrol.


At last all were off, many a thrill
Yet remain in the water a few people still
But more ships are here and Trouncer must stay
To aid in the search on this luckless day
Poor Empire Patrol.