Military History Tours On Tour - Egypt and Libya - 21 March 2010
Today we headed out towards the Battlefields of the Campaign and after the 105 Klm trip reached El Alamein. It was really worth the time taken to view the Museum as it is a complete illustration of the story of the North African Campaign.
A long day. The wind was blowing strongly all day and it gave our party an indication of the conditions that prevailed during the period at El Alamain during that campaign.
We entered El Alamein early and the first stop was the CWGC Cemetery at El Alamein. Francis Monotti, a 2/24th Bn member and John Hitchen were left at the Cemetery as the rest of the bus headed off to the El Alamein Museum. Francis is 93 years old and had a small list of the men that he had lost during the first battle of El Alamein and he wanted to visit each grave and pay his respects. John helped him to find the graves of his driver, three of his lieutenants, his platoon sergeant and one of his corporals. It was a very moving morning for John and more so for Francis. At Tobruk Francis was the Regimental Signals Officer of 2/24th Bn, at first El Alamein he started out as Company 2IC but finished up as Company OC. He was wounded and evacuated in late August.
Later on the rest of the group joined them for a small ceremony in the cemetery at the graveside of a Major Seymour who was a Company Commander of the 2/8th Field Ambulance and a close friend of Colonel Peter Byrne’s father. Peter is with us on tour. We then went to the 9th Division Memorial. Francis Monotti was part of the committee that fought to have this memorial established and it looks fabulous standing proud amongst the harshness of the terrain. After lunch at a seaside resort hotel, we went to the German war grave memorial and then headed to the Tel el Eisa railway station and then we walked the 2 klms past the old railway station up to the infamous railway cutting. We were able to access this area amongst the old minefields as the fellow from the German Memorial agreed to lead us there. A few years ago this would have been impossible. This was the area where the 2/24th and 2/15th amongst others had fought off the German armour. One of our party, Patrick Harrison had a citation for a decoration for Lt Col B Williams who as a Major at the time had risked all by leading a group of Valentine tanks to safety through a minefield, under fire.
We then went to the Italian building holding the remains of the Italians recovered from the El Alamein battlefield. All the remains are held in crypts, a most solemn area. This building is sited where the Battalion Headquarters of 2/24thwas positioned on 10/7/1942 following their 15 klm advance.
From that Battalion Headquaters we walked to Point 33, the high point, with views from the sea over to Point 24 and over to the Tel el Eisa railway station. Francis Monotti had his CHQ there. His B Coy was responsible for ground from Point 33 to the roadway. D Coy from Point 33 to the sea. The 2/48th was south of the road. The incursion by the 26 Bde battalions had upset Rommel’s plans. This northern incursion by 26 Bde had captured ground that has become known as ‘The (Alamein) Salient’. Rommel called off his planned assault in the middle of the El Alamein line to try to recapture ‘The Salient’. Until the end of July repeated attacks by Rommel to regain ‘The Salient’ were carried out until the intensity of operations slowed down. This salient like the ‘Ypres Salient’ and ‘The Tobruk Salient’ earned a reputation for unrelenting action.
This was in fact the time that Rommel was beaten and could never win. His attacks after this were piecemeal and easily defeated. He could only await the final thrust of the allies. A long day so we headed to our accommodation near Mersah Matruah for a well deserved rest from such a wonderful day.
Unless otherwise noted battle and battlefield descriptions are prepared jointly by the Military History Tours Historians, as are the photographs.