Among the over 1700 graves at the Suda Bay Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery there are five Canadians. All five were airmen. While the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Army functioned as discrete units in operations during the Second World War, the Royal Canadian Air Force was integrated with the RAF and other Commonwealth air forces. Thus, it was quite normal for the crew of a multi-person aircraft to be made up of men from Canada, Britain, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and so forth.
The Battle of Crete took place from May 20 to June 1, 1941, and the Allied defense largely featured British, Australian, and New Zealand troops, with some Greek military, and aided by many civilian combatants. The Greek armed forces were largely absent from Crete because military personnel had been deployed against the Italian invasion, which began in November 1940; indeed, the Italians were pushed back into Albania. In April 1941 the German armed forces intervened, and overwhelmed the Greek armed forces on the mainland. The Cretan infantry division was captured on the northern border of Greece, and so was not on the island for the Battle of Crete. No Canadians appear to have been involved in the Battle of Crete, and all the Canadians buried in Suda Bay died after June 1, 1941.
The five Canadians are listed in the order of date of death. The information is taken from the registry at the cemetery. DFM = Distinguished Flying Medal. AFM = Air Force Medal.
PORRITT, Flight Sergeant, (Air Gunner), WILLIAM JEREMIAH, R/58432, D F M. 227 (R.A.F) Sqdn, Royal Canadian Air Force. 6 September 1942. Age 20. Son of William Joseph and Aida Edith Porritt, of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Grave Reference: 16. C. 7.
FLEISHMAN, Flying Officer, EDMOND DAVID, J/10829. A F M. 37 (R.A.F) Sqdn., Royal Canadian Air Force. 23 November 1942. Grave Reference: Coll. Grave 16. C. 9.
MATHEWS, Warrant Officer Class II, (Pilot), LAWRENCE EDGAR, R/97534, 37 (R.A.F.) Sqdn., Royal Canadian Air Force. 23 November 1942. Age 24. Son of Lemuel Bertus and Mary Elizabeth Mathews, of Trail, British Columbia, Canada. Grave Reference: Coll. Grave16. C. 9.
It would appear that Mathews and Fleishman were both part of the same six-person air crew that was downed on 23 November 1942, as they are all buried together.
GOYER, Pilot Officer, (Wireless Op./Air Gunner), JOSEPH ALEXANDER, J/85926. 24 (S.A.A.F.) Sqdn, Royal Canadian Air Force. 3 February 1944. Grave Reference: 4. D. 20.
DUNCAN, Warrant Officer (Wireless Op/Air Gunner) William Walter, R/115792.162 (RAF) Sqdn., Royal Canadian Air Force. 16 February 1944. Age 24. Son of Harry and Hattie Duncan; husband of Lucy Irene Duncan, of Shell Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada. Grave Reference: Coll. Grave 13. E.2-8.
The above map is from the register in the register box, and it is oriented with west in the top.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission employs two full-time grounds keepers at the Suda Bay War Cemetery. The Commission uses an older spelling of Σούδα, which is normally transliterated as Souda.
Following British custom, the commemoration of Remembrance Day is held annually on the Sunday closest to November 11; this year we meet on November 10, 2019, and people are encouraged to arrive by 10:40 am. The commemoration is organised by a group of UK citizens living in Apokoronas, Greece, working with the Anglican Church of St Thomas, Kefalas.
This year (2019), for the first time, the Band of the 5th (Cretan) Brigade – V Μεραρχία Κρητών, led by Major Christos Zagourakis and Captain Evangelos Pantazonis, will be present to lead us in music.
As well, His Excellency Mark Allen, Ambassador of Canada to Greece, will attend to read In Flanders Fields and lay a wreath on behalf of Canada.
Notes prepared by the Rev. Canon David Bruce Bryant-Scott, Assistant Chaplain at the Anglican Church of St Thomas, Kefalas, Apokoronas, Chania, Crete, Greece (Diocese in Europe – Church of England), November 5, 2019.