Australian-Assyrians commemorate life of
Lt General Sir Stanley
by Gaby Kiwarkis
On the 31st of August 2006, Australian-Assyrian community leaders
from Sydney and Melbourne gathered at Boorondara cemetery in Kew Victoria to
commemorate an Australian General for his remarkable dedication and
sacrifice towards the safety of Assyrian refugees during the exodus from
Urmia in August 1918.
Lieutenant General Sir Stanley George Savige, at that time a 28 year-old
captain serving in the specially assembled Allied unit nicknamed “Dunsterforce”,
was second-in-command of a supply column assigned to re-supply the Assyrians
fighting in Persia. Unable to complete the task due to the fall of Urmia he
nevertheless persisted in his endeavour to assist the Assyrians by
persuading his British commander that he should remain with them.
Opening prayers at the ceremony:
Rev. Fr. Genard Lazar of the Assyrian Church of
For six weeks Captain Stanley Savige used all the means at his disposal to
protect the refugees against the perpetual onslaught of the Turkish forces.
Reasoning that the Turkish commander would concentrate on killing him before
harming the refugees, he strategically placed his command at the rear of the
refugee procession and deliberately drew enemy fire. By offering his command
as a target, even though outnumbered one hundred to one, the captain managed
to slow the Turkish advance long enough for most of the refugees to flee.
This act of courage and self-sacrifice is far beyond what is expected of a
regular junior officer in the field.
One of the many speakers at the ceremony: Mr
Vice President of the Assyrian Australian
Stanley Savige was no ordinary soldier; this righteous young man was born in
1890 in Morwell, Victoria. Commissioned in the field, he served in Gallipoli
and France where he won the Military Cross in the second battle of
Bullecourt. In 1918 he won the DSO for his part in the Assyrian refugee
crisis. After the war he established the Legacy Foundation to care for war
widows and their children, he rose to the rank of Lt General and was
knighted. He passed away on the 15th May 1954 at a young age of
sixty three and is now resting at Boorondara cemetery in Kew Victoria.
Representing the Hon. Prime Minister John
the Hon Petro Georgio lays a wreath at Sir
Savige's place of rest.
The ceremony was opened by prayers from the Army chaplain
Peter Lyndenmyer and
Reverend Genard Lazar of the Assyrian Church of the East while the Army
catafalque party stood guard. Lt General Savige was thanked by all speakers
including the Hon. Petro Georgio MP representing our Prime Minister the Hon.
John Howard, Brigadier Keith Rossi RSL, Lt Colonel Mark Gainsford, Mr John
Savige and five Assyrian community representatives. The General was awarded
the highest Assyrian medallion and declared a hero by all speakers. A plaque
was also accepted by his grandson Mr Stanley Waters on behalf of his
Grandfather. After the ceremony, the Assyrian delegation proceeded to his
hometown at Morwell where the Mayor Lisa Price unveiled a bronze bust of the
General. The Assyrians were invited to attend and speak at this historic
occasion to celebrate the life of the great Australian.
Many organisations of the Australian-Assyrian
were in attendance on the day.
The Assyrian levies Association wishes to thank all participants and
attendees, in particular: Assyrian Church of the East, the Prime Minister’s
representative the Hon. Petro Georgio MP, the Australian Army, Brigadier
Keith Rossi of the Returned Services & League (RSL), Assyrian Australian
Association, Assyrian Universal Alliance, Victorian Assyrian Community,
Assyrian Australian National Federation, Assyrian Barwer Association, Bet
Nahrain Democratic Party, Dr Yaghoub Sayad-Yaghoubi, Assyrian 3zzz Radio,
Australian Assyrian Arts & Literature foundation, Liberal Party represented
by Mr Andy Rohan, Mr Paul Azzo & Mr Zaya Tomma, FOBKC Association and other
individuals. A special thanks to Chaplain Peter Lyndenmyer, Rev. Genard
Lazar and Dr Walter Savige.
The Assyrian nation was possibly at the brink of extinction if not for the
action of Sir Savige. By the grace of God, this Australian’s intervention
helped save 50,000 Assyrian refugees in 1918 when enemy forces were
determined to eradicate the remnants of an ancient Christian people. Lt
General Sir Stanley George Savige is truly deserving of a special place of
honour in the heart of the Assyrian nation.
commemorative event was organised by Gaby Kiwarkis, President of the
Assyrian Levies Association. Mr Kiwarkis’ dedication in promoting the
contribution of Assyrian veterans led to discovering the connection between
Assyrians and Australia through the good work of Lt General Sir Savige. For
more information, visit the Assyrian Levies Association website (click
here) or contact Gaby Kiwarkis via email (click
Left to right:
Colonel Mark Gainsford and Gaby Kiwarkis