El Alamein + 70 years

70 years ago, my father would have been just getting ready for the Battle of El Alamein, in Eygpt.  He was then a newly-promoted Lieutenant of the 169th Battery, 57th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment of the Royal Artillery, and had just finished a stint protecting the Helipopolis Aerodrome – just outside Cairo – from Luftwaffe attack.

It must have been extraordinary. 1/3 million men, over a thousand warplanes, 1/2 million landmines and huge numbers of tanks and artillery pieces.  It was a decisive victory for the Allies (Brits, Australians, New Zealanders, Indians etc).  Within a couple of weeks, the 8th Army (including father) was in Tobruk; they pushed the Germans back to Western Libya at the rate of about 100 miles a week.  The Luftwaffe in North Africa was in shreds.  The tide of the war turned.

The British light artillery was key.  German commander Field Marshall Rommel said:  “The British artillery demonstrated once again its well-known excellence. Especially noteworthy was its great mobility and speed of reaction to the requirements of the assault troops”

My father was just 21 years old at the time. He should have been terrified. But knowing him, I have a sense that he wasn’t.


Filed under History

5 responses to “El Alamein + 70 years

  1. neville

    The men and most were really only boys were indeed the bravest of the brave! . I cannot begin to imagine what it would feel like to comprehend the awful reality that you had to be prepared to kill or be killed sometimes in conditions of hand to hand conflict. They were the finest generation.

  2. Neville, I agree. Our generation is so extraordinarily lucky not to have to have fought a total war.

  3. fenwickelliott@yahoo.com

    Sadly coping in part with the stress then and for the rest of his life by chain smoking untipped Players cigarettes washed down with beer and gin . A deadly habit which killed him and which together with his bravery allows us to live longer safer lives than his – by chosing not to follow his example and drink too much .

  4. Yes, like so many of his generation he smoked like a chimney and drank like a fish.

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