Mandeville to remember Crete
This month’s annual fly-in at Mandeville, Southland, will recognise a local war hero, Brig James Hargest who featured in the Battle of Crete and also served at Gallipoli and who is commemorated on the local war memorial.
A little-known Southland war hero will be remembered at this year’s Mandeville fly-in on 20–21 February as it marks the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Crete.
Brig James Hargest commanded 5 New Zealand Infantry Brigade on Crete, which was responsible for the defence of the key airfield at Maleme. His involvement in the battle remains controversial as it was under his command the airfield was lost and the battle turned in the Germans’ favour.
It just so happens that Hargest grew up on a farm in Mandeville, Southland, and his name appears twice on the cenotaph there—once for having served in the Gallipoli campaign and the second time for his service on Crete. He was killed during the Battle of Normandy in 1944.
Event organiser Maeva Smith, of the Croydon Aircraft Company, says this event to draw attention to the highly decorated officer came about after a discussion with local war historian Dr Aaron Fox, who is writing a book about Hargest.
“Most people in Southland know the name because of James Hargest College in Invercargill, but not many will know his story,” says Mrs Smith. “We didn’t even know he was from Mandeville until Dr Fox pointed it out.”
The event will include film footage and a display about Hargest, with a more in-depth exhibition and formal recognition of Hargest’s contribution planned for 20 May, the actual battle anniversary date.
Remembering this battle is important, says Mrs Smith. “Many people will have family members who served on Crete.” More than 2000 New Zealanders were taken prisoner and 671 died.
The focus of the February event will be flying and fun, with battle re-enactments which it is hoped will include paratroopers, themed activities for children, and Mediterranean-themed food. The regular fly-in features of vintage aircraft flights, museum and aircraft workshop tours and traction engines will still be a part of the event.
The fly-in is held annually on the eighth weekend of the year to mark the anniversary of the first cross-country flight in New Zealand, made by Will Scotland between Invercargill and Gore on 20 February 1914.
- Report by John King, photography supplied by Croydon Aircraft Company.
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