Stories of Remembrance

Army, Second World War (1939-45)Sergeant Herbert 'Slim' Wrigley,2nd Australian Imperial Force

I still marvel that a horrific event like war changed the course of our lives, and that an address scrawled on a slip of paper led to love.
Xanthoula Wrigley

Sergeant Herbert ‘Slim’ Wrigley was captured by the Germans in April 1941 during the evacuation of Commonwealth forces from Greece. He escaped from a German prisoner of war camp in Salonika in September 1941 and fled south to the remote village of Ritini where he was sheltered by the family of the school teacher, Ioannis Papadopolous.

Slim met another fugitive Australian, Bruce Vary and the two fast became friends. Slim was six feet tall, fair and very thin. Bruce Vary couldn’t imagine anyone who looked less Greek and jokingly said that travelling with Slim was like waving the Union Jack. The men joined the Greek resistance and fought with them, facing great danger and hardship, until 1943, when they escaped to Turkey.

Ioannis Papadopolous was not so lucky. He was executed by the Germans on 13 January 1944, leaving his young family destitute. After the war Ioannis’ daughter, Xanthoula, was reminded of the tall handsome Australian who had stayed with her family years before.

The year was 1949, one windy night sitting around looking at some family photos… a small piece of paper fell out. On it was a name and an address in Melbourne, Australia. The name was Herbert Wrigley (Slim), our special digger friend.

Xanthoula wrote to Slim asking for help. Slim remembered the beautiful daughter of the man who had saved his life and sponsored her passage to Australia. The two were married in 1951, five weeks after her arrival. Slim and Xanthoula spent 45 happy years together. Slim Wrigley died in 1995, aged 70.

This Story of Remembrance was compiled through the research of the Exhibitions and Collections team at the Shrine of Remembrance.  

  • Name Herbert Wrigley
  • Service Number VX24068
  • Place of Birth Lancashire, England
  • Date of Enlistment 07 June 1940
  • Date of Discharge 12 September 1945
  • Date of Death 1995
  • Place of Death Melbourne, Victoria

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