Tamworth man Ted Carter is one of 21 Australian World War II veterans due to fly out from Sydney today bound for Egypt as part of a special commemorative journey marking the 70th anniversary of the Battle of El Alamein and the North Africa campaigns.
The Rat of Tobruk and retired accountant was just 23 years old and a member of the 2/3rd Pioneer Battalion of the Ninth Division when he helped the Australians hold the northern flank against the German assault in a battle that lasted two weeks.
For most of the veterans, including Mr Carter, it is the first time they have returned to North Africa since they served there in 1942.
Veterans Affairs minister Warren Snowdon said the visit commemorated both the Battle of El Alamein and the end of Australian involvement in the North Africa campaigns – a series of decisive actions that helped defeat the Germans in the Middle East – and honour the contribution of the thousands of Australians involved.
Mr Snowdon said the group would participate in commemorative activities including an Australian service at the 9th Division Memorial to honour lost mates, and services at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission El Alamein War Cemetery alongside Allied counterparts.
The veterans represent the three service arms involved in the major actions in North Africa: Bardia, Libya in January 1941, Tobruk from April to December 1941, Syria from June to July 1941 and El Alamein from July to November 1942.
In El Alamein the Allies launched a major offensive that would force the Germans to retreat and ultimately abandon their campaign in North Africa. This final action of the campaign was not without cost – more than 1100 Australians were killed between July and November, almost 200 listed as missing in action and more than 3600 wounded.
“On the 70th anniversary of the North Africa campaign, I encourage Australians to reflect on the service and sacrifice of those involved, including the some 3000 Australians who paid the ultimate sacrifice.”