Veterans recall Battle of El Alamein horror

 

Veterans of the Battle of El Alamein today described the horror of losing than 4,000 Allied troops as they marked its 70th anniversary.

An evensong service at Westminster Abbey in London commemorated seven decades since the battle in North Africa, which was widely hailed as the turning point in the Second World War.

Around 40 British and Australian veterans, many of whom are now in their 90s, were part of a 500-strong congregation to honour those who fought in the 14-day battle.

Major Freddie Salinger, 94, who served with the Royal Artillery Medium Regiment, was subjected to a dive bomb attack in which four men from his troop were killed.

Speaking ahead of the service, Major Salinger said: "I think of them now with great sadness that they were cut off in their prime in their mid 20s."

"It was not until about the 9th day (of battle) ... in the morning, the sun was shining, I looked up and saw some Stuka dive bombers. I didn't realise it but they were for us. I found out we had lost four, including a sergeant."

Major Frederick Hunn, who turns 93 tomorrow, served at the Battle of El Alamein with the Duchess of Cornwall's father, Major Bruce Shand, in the 12th Royal Lancers.

He described the counter-attack ordered by Gen Montgomery on October 23 when almost 1,000 guns levelled at the German positions were discharged at once.

"I'd been used to battle because I'd served at Dunkirk but I remember on the 23rd, at 9.40pm, every gun opened up," he said.

"The sky was bright from the guns. We were a mile away but could still hear the tremendous amount of noise.

"I'd seen plenty of barrages but I'd never seen one like this before."

Major Hunn said the service provided the chance to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in the battle.

"If they're great friends, as most of them in my regiment were ... when they are killed beside you, and you're a young chap at only 22, it's sad when you lose such young people."

PA

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