Archaeologist launching book about British navy ships sunk in Crete

  • Two missing British navy ships found by Michael Bendon in Crete.
  • The ships were sunk by Germany during the Battle of Crete in 1941.
  • Bendon tracks down the captain of one missing ship to write a book.
  • Ships still listed as lost by the British Royal Navy.

Archaelogist Michael Bendon’s love for a lunchtime dip while working in Crete has led to the startling discovery of two ships which played a pivotal role in saving Australian World War II diggers.

Mr Bendon, of Rhodes, said he stumbled upon the sunken ships while working in Crete six years ago.

“I was working with a friend on the land and we used to go swimming at lunch times,” he said.

“We swam over the wreck and I asked my friend about it, who thought it was from WWII. I did a bit of research and found out two boats were still listed as lost by the British.”

The two tank landing craft (TLC) vessels — which had no names — were used to evacuate around 2500 Australian and New Zealand troops from Suda Bay in 1941.

He has published the book called The Forgotten Flotilla, which provides a detailed history on two prototype British ships that were sunk in 1941 in the Battle of Crete during World War II.

flotillabookSydney University will launch the book on November 27.

The TLC vessels were commissioned by Winston Churchill in 1940 for combined military operations.

Mr Bendon’s research involved countless hours of trawling through official war documents to learn more about why the boats were built and the role they played in the war effort.

“They were secret ships and listed as minor vessels so they didn’t have logbooks,” he said.

“In the official histories they are virtually overlooked, so it was hard to identify individual crafts and crew members.”

As part of his research into the boats, Mr Bendon interviewed the captain of TLC A6 John Digby Sutton.

“I managed to track him down and speak to him about evacuating the Australian and New Zealand soldiers, which earned him Distinguished Service Order from the British navy,” he said.

“He had some incredible stories to tell and I shot them in HD video, so if the money becomes available I’d like to make a documentary down the track.”

Mr Bendon said what started as a passion project had become his life’s work.

“I used to research much older stuff, but now these boats have become the central part of my life,” he said.

“Because the ships didn’t have names, no one knows about the role they played. Without them, the Allied forces at Tobruk would have collapsed.

“I like WWII because it’s more of a tangible time period for me and I want to be able to share this knowledge with future generations, who will be carrying on the legacy.”

For more about Mr Bendon and his book visit forgottenflotilla.com.

dailytelegraph.com.au

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