Saturday, 20 October 2012

On this day 70 years ago..

93 yr old Peter Watsson pays his respects to fallen comrades
The theme of this post is just a quick tribute to World War Two veterans.  I know by entitling it 'on this day' etc. It looks like I've borrowed the idea from my friend Ted and that's because I have. I thought I would just add a quick article from the DT as it is now 70 years since the second battle of El Alamein. The DT have produced a good article penned by David Blair.  Just as the Allied forces were gathered for what was to be the 'end of the beginning' 70 years ago, now commemorations featuring some veterans are taking place. There is a tendency for El Alamein to be regarded as a mostly British victory in many circles. However the truth is it was an allied endeavour albeit one led and planned by the British. The victory would not have been possible without tanks and munitions form the US. Or large numbers of Commonwealth soldiers, or indeed the vastly overlooked contribution of these guys.  I would like to take this opportunity to express my admiration, respect and gratitude for all involved. Full text from David Blair below:

The Battle of El Alamein, which opened with a 1,000-gun artillery barrage on the night of Oct 23 1942, amounted to a turning point in the Second World War for the British Army.
In a 12-day offensive, the British Eighth Army under General Bernard Montgomery routed the German Afrika Korps, destroying about a third of its fighting strength and wrecking Hitler's hopes of capturing the Middle East.
Two soldiers belonging to the Commonwealth and Allied forces aim at a German soldier surrendering atop his tank 25 October 1942 as a sandstorm clouds the battlefield at El Alamein 
Perhaps most importantly, the Eighth Army renewed Britain's belief in final victory, shaken by the disasters at Dunkirk and Singapore.
Australian veterans attend the commemorations (Getty)
"El Alamein is seen on the home front as the greatest British victory since Waterloo," said Niall Barr, a reader in military history at King's College London, who has travelled to El Alamein for the anniversary.
"For the British people, who had experienced a run of defeats and suffering really from 1940 onwards, the final battle of El Alamein was a crucial sign that final victory was possible."

Members of the ceremonial Catafalque party stand together at the ceremony (Getty)
Winston Churchill seized the opportunity to lift the morale of the Home Front, driving home the message that Montgomery had fought the battle with "one single idea", namely to "destroy the armed force of the enemy and to destroy it at the place where the disaster would be most far-reaching and irrecoverable."
"Now, this is not the end," added Churchill. "It is not even the beginning of the end; but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

A member of the ceremonial Catafalque Party stands on the cenotaph (Getty)
On Saturday, the chosen setting for the destruction of General Erwin Rommel's desert army is a modern Egyptian town on the Mediterranean coast, about 70 miles west of Alexandria. Outside El Alamein lies a cemetery with 7,240 British and Commonwealth graves, where today's ceremony will take place.
After the passage of seven decades, this will probably be the last big commemoration. Perhaps a score of veterans from Australia, New Zealand and the Commonwealth will be present. But only one British veteran is expected to attend. 

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