Suda Bay War Cemetery is a little plot of Australia and New Zealand in the rugged landscape of Crete, the largest island in the Greek Island chain . It was here during the Second World War, that contingents of allied forces tried valiantly to hold Crete from the German invasion, but were overpowered by numbers. One of the battles was over the airstrip at Maleme and in the words of those that survived, ‘In this air attack the sun was blotted out by thousands of German paratroopers’.
The cemetery itself is like a little oasis, some two hours drive along the coast from Heraklion in a westerly direction and is so green compared with the rugged terrain all around in which the soldiers had to fight. If you catch a plane from Athens on the Greek airline Olympus, it will take you to Crete’s capital, Heraklion, and from here you can hire a car and make the picturesque drive around to Suda Bay. Many Australian and New Zealand tourists have made this pilgrimage to pay their last respects. The actual setting of the cemetery is very peaceful and tranquil, as the headstones of sandstone are in neat rows in amongst a variety of Australian and New Zealand plants, trees and shrubs. Wattles, small Gums and Banksia plants are in abundance. The gardens are immaculately kept. The Cretans have a great respect for the efforts of these soldiers during the war.
You enter through a granite and sandstone portico and the first sight that greets you is a large monument with a sword on it and in the background the delightful picture postcard scenery of Suda Bay with a mountain backdrop. One certainly feels at peace in these tranquil surroundings and it is a wonderful atmosphere in which to remember the fallen. You can almost feel their spirits breathing in the atmosphere of their native countries’ plantings all round them.
If you want to escape the solemnity of the cemetery and rejoice for a little while, walk out of the cemetery and towards Suda Bay and its beautiful, blue, Mediterranean water and go out on the pier and enjoy nature. You can even have a picnic out here and swim from the small jetty. When you drive away from the cemetery on your way back to Heraklion, there are a few small shops close by you can get supplies for the journey back. This place is very well worth a visit and in reality is the first place you come down to after driving around high cliff roads all the way to get there.