|British Commonwealth War Cemetery, Souda Bay...
Lies 3 miles (5 Kilometers) to the east of Chania - in the direction of Iraklion. It lies on a small plateau open just above sea-level on the eastern rim of Souda Bay. A beautiful spot flanked by a steeply rising hillside to the north and only a few kilometers to the base of the white mountains to the south. It is a quiet, peaceful spot and is immaculately kept, the cemetery proper bounded by trees and shrubs on three sides and the open sea of the bay in front. It is the last resting place of 1527 of the known 2000 British Commonwealth war dead, the majority of whom who lost their lives in the Battle for Crete between May 20th and 31st, 1941. In the bitter WWII battle between the allies and German forces for control of Crete.
My wife Pam and I visit this spot at least twice a year, more often when we have British guests. Nor are we alone, the small parking area just outside always contains hire cars and the visitors book seems always to be nearly full with commonwealth addresses. Predominantly British, but that is most likely due to the long distance between here and our commonwealth allies. Other countries are sometimes represented too and we have seen American; Swiss; Danish and Swedish entries in the visitors book, which we no longer sign. It seems impossible to do so without developing a serious lump in one's throat caused by glancing at other visitor comments while wondering what to write.
Although Souda Bay is a port - a Naval Base which is now home, in addition to the civilian ferries, to Greek warships - it is not readily apparent when visiting this spot how few sailors there are interred here. Especially when one considers the appalling loss of ships during the battle, cutting off German sea born reinforcements and latterly evacuating almost 15,000 retreating troops from the south coast - many from Sweetwater Beach at Sfakia.
The Commonwealth War Cemeteries record at the cemetery records that "Three Cruisers, six destroyers, and twenty nine smaller vessels were sunk; one battleship, one aircraft carrier, three cruisers were seriously damaged; and a number of other ships suffered less serious damage."
|The Air Forces...
Although never able to maintain a permanent presence or much in the way of air-cover for the allied ships and land army, also had their losses. More young men joining the row upon row of cared for head-stones, which march in such neat order across the manicured grass and above a profusion of flowers which seem always in bloom before them. The occasional and occasionally deeply moving inscription from loved ones in faraway places. Who may never have been able to visit these graves.
|The War cemetery is a quiet and restful place for the allied forces who lost their lives here on Crete. The land given by the Greek people, it became the last resting place of those forces in 1945 when their bodies were gathered from 4 main "British Military Cemeteries" created by the German forces and re-buried here in what is a veritable garden of remembrance.
As in all wars not all the dead were identified accurately at the end of the day, and like all similar cemeteries across the world their are headstones without names; locations of men "buried near this spot" and those who are "believed to be." The names of those who could not be identified are inscribed on a memorial in the Phaleron War cemetery in Athens.
|How to Get there...
From the airport take the main Chania road until you reach the large signs for Souda at a left fork about 6km from the airport. This will take you down a long steep winding hill with good views of Souda bay on your left as you descend. At the very bottom of this hill, is the sign-posted left turn for the cemetery. Turn first right into the parking area.
From the Chania - Iraklion National highway take the follow the signs for Souda Bay. Arriving from the Iraklion direction drive straight past the naval base and port area on your right and continue on through Souda until you are faced with a large IN.KA supermarket on a major Y junction with traffic lights. Bear right and a couple of kilometres further on this road, past a petrol station on your right and a sharp right hand bend, you will see the cemetery signpost. From the Chania direction turn left off the main highway. Right at the end of the exit road; right at the T junction about half a mile further down; and left at the traffic lights outside the IN.KA supermarket a few hundred yards down on your left, on the second bend. About two kilometres down this road, past a petrol station on your right and a sharp left hand bend, you will see the cemetery signpost.
|And if you can't...
Remember that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has a website at cwgc.org where you can carry out an on-line search which can yield the exact location of casualties in the great wars buried or commemorated anywhere in the world. They also produce a small publication about the Souda War Cemetery including a map to help you get there. The internet link, together with other links which may be of use are included on our links page. You can also go directly to our photo gallery without returning to the index page by clicking the link below. If I can assist in any way regarding Souda Bay, please don't hesitate to ask using the e-mail link. mailto:Webmaster@cretanvista.gr