18 November 2011

Cemeteries Part 13: El Alamein

It’s been a while, over a year since I blogged about a cemetery. Opportunity comes when and if. And this year I missed Remembrance Day at home. Instead, I had the privilege of visiting Alamein War Cemetery, part of which is one of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission sites.  
Photograph BDM, November 2011
The battle of El Alamein in Egypt—across the Western Desert region of Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia—was a victory for the Allied Forces in the Mediterranean theatre of the Second World War. Most visible are the British, German, and Italian memorials to honour the fallen servicemen. I was in a group of visitors highly conscious of our proximity to Remembrance Day, wearing our poppies. We brought a wreath to place at the British war cemetery.
Photograph BDM, November 2011

Some in our group were searching for specific grave sites. Unless they had known to use the online CWGC search engine in advance, it was difficult to pinpoint precisely an Allied individual’s gravesite. Well-worn “index” books are available on site, but visitors crowd them, and the various military divisions can be confusing. 

Photograph BDM, November 2011
El Alamein War Cemetery contains the graves of men who died at all stages of the Western Desert campaigns, brought in from a wide area, but especially those who died in the Battle of El Alamein at the end of October 1942 and in the period immediately before that. The cemetery now contains 7,239 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War, of which 814 are unidentified.”[1]

The magnitude of the Commonwealth cemetery is overwhelming, especially when one reads row after row of the young men who died. What a waste. Many had brief verses or words inscribed by surviving family. Saddest of all are the unidentified graves, “A soldier of the 1939-1845 War, known only to God.” Visitors, even those with no family associations, were overcome with quiet tears as they walked.

Without a relative to seek, I chanced upon a few Canadian stones.
Photograph BDM, November 2011

R 55367, Sergeant William Patterson Begley, pilot, Royal Canadian Air Force, [died] 25 July 1942, age 20, “He rode the skies in service of King and Country and rests in peace with God.

The CWGC search gives more details: the son of Thomas Allan Begley and Mabelle Rose Begley of Quebec City, Alamein War Cemetery location XVII 18.F.1. [2]

Photograph BDM, November 2011

                   Per Ardua ad Astra 

[1] “Alamein Memorial,” Commonwealth War Graves Commission (http://www.cwgc.org/search/cemetery_details.aspx?cemetery=131900&mode=1).
[2] “Debt of Honour Register,” Commonwealth War Graves Commission 

1 comment:

CallieK said...

Both beautiful and tragic. Thanks for sharing.