When the Germans invaded Greece in April 1941, Bruce Brock and his mates were left isolated and cut off. But with initiative, courage, the goodwill of local Greeks and Turks, and a little bit of luck, they escaped the advancing German forces, making an epic 37-day journey through rugged mountainous terrain and swampland to rejoin their unit in Palestine.
Their story was told at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra as part of Against all odds, a special exhibition featuring personal stories of escape and endurance from the First World War to Afghanistan.
Curator Dianne Rutherford said Brock’s story was an incredible story of endurance, kindness and luck.
“They couldn’t rely on being rescued, so they had to try and make their way south through the mountains to get back to the Allied lines,” Rutherford said.
“But by the time they got there, they found out that the Germans were already there, and that the Allied forces had gone, so they had to change their plans.
“There were a number of occasions when they were almost caught or shot up … so they were incredibly lucky.
“But they wouldn’t have survived and made it through without the help of the local people.
“There was the risk of reprisals – very serious, genuine risks – but a lot of the villagers still helped them as much as they could.
“They were often quite poor, and didn’t have a lot themselves, but they were willing to share what they had.
“And that generosity, as well as their own determination, helped them survive.”