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PLAQUE NO.
79 ... El Alamein       

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The battles of El Alamein occurred between 1 July and 4 November 1942 and were a major turning point in the Second World War. Prior to this, General Rommel, commanding the German and Italian (axis) forces had advanced from Tobruk and appeared poised to capture Alexandria. A final 60km defensive position was established at El Alamein by a multinational force led by the British high command.
During July (Ruweisat Ridge) and august (Alam El Halfa Ridge) Rommel's forces tried to break this position but they were repulsed and lost ground in particular to the Australians around Tel El Eisa. The allies (under Lt-Gen Montgomery) gradually built-up a two to one superiority over Rommel's forces in men, tanks and materials. The armies strengthened their defences with kilometres of trenches and land mines, in anticipation of the final conflict.
The main battle commenced on 23 October along a 10 km front (refer map). The allies gradually advanced but fierce fighting persisted for 12 days during which thousands died on both sides.
On 3 November British tanks finally broke through near tell El Aqqaqir and the axis forces retreated ending one of history's great battles.
For generations to come the sacrifices made by the men who fought here will stand as their eternal memorial.

Australia's crucial battle for El Alamein was a decisive factor in the allied victory. From July to November 1942 the Australians pressed the Italian and German forces relentlessly, especially those in the coastal area. The Australians had a pivotal function in both the October offensive and and when the division withstood the full might of the German-Italian counter-attacks prior to the allied breakthrough.

In the July offensive the 9th Division suffered 2,552 casualties. In the main battle of El Alamein during October and November the division suffered 620 killed, 1,944 wounded and 130 prisoners, these casualties represented one fifth of the total allied losses of 13,560 killed, wounded and missing.

The divisional memorial and allied cemetery are located well behind the 1942 front line, on sites previously occupied by the allied support camps, through which soldiers moved forward to engage the enemy.

Today, on the battlefield little remains to remind us of the war. Only the memorials of many nations stand testimony to the magnitude of the conflict and the sacrifices made by so many in 1942.

In the silence of the desert - reflect and remember.

 



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