UK & World News
El Alamein: Veterans Gather In Remembrance
Veterans of the Battle of El Alamein have gathered for a special service to mark its 70th anniversary.
The evensong at Westminster Abbey in London marked seven decades since the battle in North Africa, which was widely hailed as the turning point in the Second World War.
Around 40 British and Australian veterans, many of whom are now in their 90s, were part of a 500-strong congregation to honour those who fought in the 14-day battle.
More than 4,000 Allied servicemen lost their lives and almost 9,000 were wounded in the clash, which saw General Sir Bernard Montgomery's troops defeat German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps.
Winston Churchill had described the victory as a "bright gleam that caught the helmets of the soldiers, and cheered all our hearts", Chief of the Defence Staff Sir David Richards told the congregation.
"Men from all three services played their part, not least those from my own regiment, the Royal Artillery," he said.
"I am very proud to be here today, paying tribute to them, and their example of courage and professionalism which today's armed forces constantly strive to live up to."
Defence Minister Mark Francois said: "El Alamein was the first major Allied victory of the Second World War, and it is important that we never forget all those who fought so valiantly, including more than 4,000 men who lost their lives."
Two wreaths were laid at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior during the service, one by the Chief of the Defence Staff on behalf of the Duchess of Cornwall, whose father was at El Alamein, and the second by the Chief of the General Staff Sir Peter Wall on behalf of the armed forces.
The anniversary service, led by the Dean of Westminster The Very Reverend Dr John Hall, featured music from the Band of the Royal Artillery with renditions of Leo Stanley's Alamein March and Out of Africa by John Barry.
At the time of the famous battle, which began on October 23, 1942, and ended on November 4, the Allies were fighting to keep their vital supply lines open from the Mediterranean to the East.
Under the command of General Montgomery, nearly 200,000 British, Australian, New Zealand, South African, British Indian, Free French and Greek forces managed to defeat the Axis powers.
Sir Winston Churchill said later: "Before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein we never had a defeat."