North African veterans make return trip
Mon, 15 Oct 2012 11:59a.m.
Seventy years after the bloody battle for the Egyptian town of El Alamein, 22 New Zealand veterans will attend anniversary commemorations.
The 22 veterans of the World War II North African campaign, aged between 88 and 96, departed Auckland's Whenuapai airbase aboard a Royal New Zealand Air Force 757 this morning.
The trip is being paid for by the Defence Force's Veterans Affairs unit and the men had to meet strict medical and fitness criteria to ensure they could make the trip.
One of the veterans originally selected was too ill to make the journey.
"This is a great opportunity for these brave men to return to Egypt and pay their respects to colleagues who did not return to New Zealand with them.
"It will be a very emotional time, as many have family members, colleagues or friends who rest in the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in El Alamein," Veterans' Affairs general manager Rick Ottaway said.
They will attend a New Zealand national ceremony to mark the anniversary on Friday, followed by an international commemoration service on Saturday.
Both ceremonies will take place at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in El Alamein, where more than 1100 New Zealanders are buried - the largest number buried in one cemetery outside New Zealand.
Almost 10,000 New Zealanders were killed or wounded, and more than 4000 became prisoners of war in North Africa during the war.
New Zealand troops played a key part in the Battle of El Alamein, which was seen as one of the decisive victories for the Allies over German forces.
The flight will also pick up 18 Australian veterans from Dubai and transport them to the commemorations.
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15/10/2012 1:21:24 p.m.
and not before time, we have almost forgotten these brave boys who went over seas to fight for our freedom and the way of life that we can enjoy now,
not enough has been done to thank them.
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