Six UK veterans returned to the Croatian Island of Vis on 20 May 2009 to pay tribute to the efforts of British and Partisan forces during WWII. They took part in commemorative services held at the Marine Graveyard in Vis and at the RAF and Coastal Forces Memorials in Komiža, where they laid wreaths for their fallen comrades. This was the 19th and final visit which the veterans, now in their ‘golden years’, plan to make to the island.
“It all started in 1983 when we had to get special permission to come, and when there were restrictions on our movement”, said 84-year-old Peter Bickmore, President of the Veterans’ Association. “Despite that, we have always been made to feel very welcome on the island”.
Freddie Nicoll (88-years-old), Walter Iredale (85), Horace Godwin (88), Reg Ellis (83), and John Rivett (84) comprise the group of visiting veterans, who were accompanied by their family members and by the widows and children of late veterans. Though all served on the island at various times and in different capacities, they all have the same vivid memories of the island and the war.
Also on hand to pay tribute to the British war veterans were Ambassador David Blunt, the UK Defence Attache Lt. Col. Jonny Lowe, Italian Defence Attache Roberto Domini, Croatia’s State Secretary in the Defence Ministry Mate Raboteg and Admiral Ante Urlić of the Croatian Navy.
Admiral Urlic used the opportunity to mention Croatia’s NATO membership, focusing on the fact that the membership allows the country to sit side-by-side with the UK and other democratic countries, thereby ensuring the safety and stability of the region.
“It is important to remember the ties between Great Britain and the Republic of Croatia, created during WWII, which were focused on Vis”, said Ambassador Blunt at the commemorative ceremony.
Vis is one of the most remote Croatian islands, which allowed the British forces to establish an air strip from where Hurricane fighter planes began their sorties during the war. In 1943 and 1944, the island hosted approximately 6000 British commandos and members of the British Royal Navy.
Source: UK Embassy in Croatia