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.