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Army November 8, 2012
Guard and 21 World War II
veterans travelled to Egypt
from October 16-22 to
commemorate the 70th anniversary
of the Allied victory in the battle of
Commemoration activities included
a memorial service at Australia's 9th
Division Memorial in El Alamein along
with New Zealand and International
services at the Commonwealth War
Graves Commission Cemetery.
The battle holds a significant place
in Australian and Allied WWII history.
Allied defeat of Germany's Gen
Rommel and his Afrika Korps led
to their total withdrawal from North
Africa, denying control of the strate-
gic Suez Canal and Middle Eastern oil
fields, crucial to German war efforts.
Sir Francis de Guingand, then chief-
of-staff to Britain's Gen Montgomery,
commander of the victorious Eighth
Army coalition, described the
Australian 9th Division's contribution
at El Alamein as significant to the over-
all North African campaign victory.
"This area saw the most deter-
mined and savage fighting of the cam-
paign. No quarter was given, and the
Australians fought some of the finest
German troops in well-prepared posi-
tions to a standstill, and by their action
did a great deal to win the battle of El
Alamein," Sir Francis said.
Fifteen members of Australia's
Vets return to
Veterans remember mates on the 70th anniversary of the battle that
stopped the Nazi war machine in its tracks, Capt Sean Childs reports.
Federation Guard supported the anni-
Ceremonial duties began with the
mounting of the catafalque party at
Sydney's Hyde Park Anzac Memorial
commemorative service before depar-
ture, culminating with the catafalque
party at the 9th Division's memo-
rial service at the Commonwealth War
Graves Commission Cemetery in El
Catafalque party commander Cpl
Ryan Tracy said accompanying the vet-
erans to El Alamein gave the contingent
members a unique opportunity to learn
first hand the history of Australia's con-
"This was an amazing opportunity
for all of us to travel with the veterans,"
Cpl Tracy said.
"To tour the battlefields and hear
first hand the history and the stories
of courage and mateship is priceless.
And for us to then officially honour the
fallen on behalf of Australia by mount-
ing catafalque parties is a privilege that
we are all very proud of."
Veteran Gordon Wallace, of the
2/15th Battalion, recalled tragic events
of the campaign.
"Me and my mates buried a great
mate, Kelvin Croker, who was only 21,
during the early days of us being in the
Middle East and fighting the enemy,"
Mr Wallace said. "We buried him
between Benghazi and Tripoli while
being machine gunned three times
and at one point having to dive into
Kelvin's grave for protection."
Gordon and his mates buried Kelvin
21 paces from the edge of the road,
marking his age.
Montgomery's Eighth Army was
drawn from throughout the British
Empire. At the right of his line, next
to the Egyptian coast was the 9th
Division. Then came a Scottish divi-
sion, the 51st Highlanders, followed
by the 2nd New Zealand, 1st South
African and 4th Indian Divisions.
The Eighth Army casualties from
October 23 to November 4, 1942, were
13,500 killed, wounded or missing. The
9th Division losses totalled 620 dead,
2000 wounded and 130 taken prisoner.
German and Italian forces suffered
37,500 killed, wounded or missing.
To tour the
hear first hand the
history and the
stories of courage
and mateship is
-- Cpl Ryan Tracy, AFG
Old mates: Cpl Scott Bateman, of Australia's Federation Guard, and
WWII veteran Bruce Bridgman visit the grave of Mr Bridgman's close
mate, Sig D. A. Ross, at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Cemetery in El Alamein, Egypt.
Photo by Cpl Christopher Dickson
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