Souda Bay War Cemetery 2


As I was reading your sad experience from Souda Cemetery it reminded me of a story told to me of a British soldier who fought in the Battle of Crete. His name is George Hamlet, I say is, because, George thankfully is still with us. George was captured by the German army after some vicious hand to hand combat . He fought alongside, what George called, the bravest of the brave, the New Zealand Maori, to this day he is a great follower of New Zealand and Maori rugby. It was through rugby that I first met George, who was the President of Sligo Rugby Club in Ireland when I first played rugby.

To put the following in context I must point out that I come from Catholic Republican background and my Father was a member of the Old IRA in the Nineteen Twenties. George is a Protestant ex member of the British army.

Ray, the story is long and may be tedious, but I must tell it in its entirety to demonstrate the character that George Hamlet is.

I come from a basically working class background, and rugby, at the time I started playing, was, to a degree a snobbish or class concious game. After playing for a few years I was picked to play for my Province at Junior level. One weekend while playing junior against Ulster I was informed that I was being watched by the senior selectors because there was a vacancy on the Connaught senior team to play the Argentinian National team the following Tuesday in Galway. When I got home to Sligo that Sunday night I learned from the television that I was picked to fill the vacancy on the Connaught team.

That was the only information I received from the selectors, and it came through the medium of television.

Knowing that the game was on at half past three on Tuesday ( a working day) and not owning a car, I took the early bus for Galway. After a while I realised that at the rate of progress it was making I would not be in time for the build up and team talk for the game. As time past I started to panic as I knew if I continued on the bus I would be late for the game.

Enter George Hamlet, While looking out the window of the bus I thought I saw Georges car parked by the side of the road, and a man resembling George, watering a dog, which I knew George and his good wife brought everywhere.

At that point I knew George was heading for the game in Galway, so, I decided if I was to have any chance of making the game I better stop the bus on this lonely country road and thumb Georges car down, I might then have some chance of getting to the game on time. I duely stopped the bus, hopped off and waited for georges car to come along. After a few minutes waiting I had this horrendous feeling that maybe I made a mistake and that it was not Georges car after all. Seconds later Georges car comes around the corner and my heart jumps for joy, but, when I thumb the car and it drove on by, my heart sank, it was my last chance to make the game in time and I was distraught . A couple seconds later and who reverses back up the road but Georges car, he rolls down the window and the first utterences are expletives … Mc Hugh what the are you doing here, you should be in Galway for the bl…dy game your are going to be late. I explain how I happen to be on the country road on the way to the game. He said hop in quick and we will try and get you there in time.

We pull in to the hotel carpark where the team were supposed to meet pre all provincial games. I learn that the team are still at the hotel, and I breathe a huge sigh of relief. George says you better have a good game today after all this.

So as George is reversing his car, I turn around and meet one of the selectors who asks me where I was. He said they thought I wasnt coming to the game and they made the decision to drop me and bring in another player, this, in spite of the fact that they never notified me officially in the first place that I was selected to play for my Province. Just as I turned around sickened by this news I spot George exiting the car park, and for some reason he rolled down the window of the car and shouts, are you ok, I mumbled something, so he stops the car and jumps out (leaving the car blocking the carpark) and comes across to me and asks me what is wrong. I explain what I have just heard. George explodes and demands to know where these selectors and aleckadoos and hangars on are. I said George just leave it, he says no, you come with me. He drags me into the packed dinningroom where all the great and the good and the selectors are finishing their lunch. In front of this packed dinningroom George tears into these selectors and tells them in no uncertain language that if they do not reverse this decision the whole country would be told how the Connaught Branch conducts there bussiness and how they treat their players. There was silence and embarassment throughout the room.

You see George comes from a very well known rugby family his Father or Grandfather played for Ireland, he also knew several of the National Sports reporters. So after a pause the selectors reconvened and quickly reversed their previous decision, and put me back on the team. Needless to relate I was overjoyed and without any doubt I had George Hamlet to thank, for me playing against the Argentinians that day. No other person would have made my case as good in that dinningroom in Galway all of thirty three years ago. We lost the game, I had a poor to average game. But I went on to play several more games for Connaught.

Georges wife has since passed away and George himself is now nearly totally blind.

Every time I thanked George for standing up for me he would say don’t thank me thank the dog, for if it didn’t need to go to the toilet on that road I would still be standing there.

The above is a small aspect of George Hamlet the soldier who fought in the battle of Crete.

Brian McHugh

4 thoughts on “Souda Bay War Cemetery 2

  1. To: Brian McHugh

    I just read your article on the Irish soldier George Hamlet who fought in the battle of Crete. The rugby story was interesting and I was just wondering if he told you any stories about his time with the army in Crete? I was born in Souda Bay 1942 and the history and stories of that time are very interesting to me. If he has told you of any other stories or if there is a book, I would really like to know what the title is. Although I have a greek name I am also half Irish my great grandparents imigrated to Canada around 1900. Hope to hear from you and appreciate any information you are able to give.

  2. Hi,
    Myself and my wife Lesley are visiting Chania at the moment. Her family and George Hamlet are long time friends in Ireland. I was making enquiries from Lesley’s mother who told me that George served round the Souda Bay area, himself and some comrades missed the evacuation (?) and were captured and imprisoned by the Germans. I would like to know if there are any remnants of the prison camp left near Chania so I could get some photos to bring home– though George is nearly blind he still has some limited vision.
    Tony Wilkinson.

  3. hi all.
    George is 89 yoa.
    He is allmost blind and prefoundly deaf.
    The one thing he asked me for was a book.
    Not his Bible but “So immortal a flower” by Cecil Roberts.
    This book would recall for him his time in Crete.
    I have now obtained a hardback copy for him.
    The Royal Society for the blind of Brittan a have copy of this book on audio. This would be ideal. However they will not
    lend it to the Republic of Ireland, not even to their Sister organisation The National Council for the Blind of Ireland.
    George is an ex British war Veteran and an exPOW.
    Can anyone help
    Brian Hynes

  4. My wife & I met George, together with his daughter Wendy, when we shared a coach trip in Crete celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Crete. He was a tremendous racontour especially when trying to converse with several of the old Partisans (Andartes), when he managed to teach Andonis Patrakis (Anthony Quinn’s dance teacher on Zorba the Greek!) how to say ‘Bottoms Up’. This cry was heard several times during that tour! George did like his Whisky! We’ve been back to Crete several times and, most recently,to join in the celebrations of the 70th Anniversary in May and to attend our son’s wedding in July – we love it there! Before we left my wife tried to contact George to no avail until today we received a letter from his daughter Wendy informing us that very sadly George passed away on 18th July. A true gentleman and hero who we must never forget. My wife’s Uncle is buried in Souda Bay Cemetery so we are well aware of the sacrifices those young lads made for us. Bottoms Up George!!

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