RECITING The Ode near where you fought 70 years ago is not an honour many veterans get, but Tamworth’s Ted Carter has just had that opportunity.
Mr Carter, a veteran of Tobruk and the Battle of El Alamein, was among 21 veterans who returned on Wednesday from visiting the battlefields where they fought in World War II.
Whilst there, the veterans took part in commemorative services and Mr Carter was the man chosen for the sombre job of reciting The Ode at the Australian service.
“That was the biggest honour for me,” he said. “It was a pride and a privilege to be asked to recite The Ode of Remembrance.”
It was a not a trip that Mr Carter ever considered making until he saw it mentioned in a Department of Veterans Affairs magazine and decided to inquire.
“I really had no desire to go back, but when I read about it, I said to Mary (my wife), I could be interested so I rang to find out more and they sent me an application and a big medical check.”
Mr Carter said the visit could not change his memory of the place or of what happened during the battle but he was glad he had returned.
“To go back after 70 years, my memories at the time were what happened 70 years ago,” he said.
“A lot of that country we covered in the dark and I went back there having a lot of that in the back of my mind, but I could not find where we were. The railway line has changed and is closer to what we called the block houses and it was nothing like what I could remember. All the country has changed, even the shape has been changed over the years, and there are now a lot of buildings.”
Mr Carter said there was plenty of nostalgia and he enjoyed the chance to look at the El Alamein Museum.
“The trip was really worthwhile,” he said.
“The fellas were all from different regiments and different parts of Australia so there was quite a cross-section. It was all very well organised by Department of Veterans Affairs.”
The veterans flew from Sydney to Dubai and were picked up outside of Dubai by the New Zealand Royal Air Force and flown to El Alamein where they attended the NZ commemorative ceremony, then held the Australian ceremony and attended an international commemoration.
“I loved how the New Zealanders have integrated so much of the Maori culture into their culture,” he said.
On the way back to Australia the veterans visited a defence base and met serving members of the Australian Defence Force, which Mr Carter said was very special for the veterans.
“There were a lot of things I learned there about what was going on in Afghanistan,” he said.
“We looked at some of the weaponry – a lot has changed since our day.”
Mr Carter said he sincerely hoped nothing like World War II or the battles he experienced ever happen again.
Service to remember El Alamein
MORE than 1100 Australians were killed, almost 200 were missing in action and more than 3600 were wounded in the Battle of El Alamein and Tamworth will pause to remember this sacrifice on tomorow.
The service will be at noon at the World War II Memorial in Bicentennial Park, with 2012 marking 70 years since the bloody battle in North Africa.
The battle was a turning point in World War II and forced the Germans to abandon their
campaign in the region.
It is the first time the battle has been marked with a service in Tamworth for many years, but because many descendants of those who fought there still live in the region, the RSL sub-branch thought it was important to mark the anniversary.
Sub-branch vice president Terry Mullens will deliver the address and encouraged everyone to attend.
Tamworth’s only surviving veteran of the battle, Ted Carter, is expected to be at the service fresh from his visit to North Africa with 20 other veterans.
There will be wreath laying for anyone wanting to pay a floral tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.