Diggers will revisit desert battlefields

Source: NewcastleHerald

THE walls of Alf Carpenter’s Georgetown home are barely visible beneath his many commendations, medals and certificates.

There are notes of gratitude not just from the Australian government, but also from those in Greece and Crete which underscore a lifetime of active military service.

There is honour on every centimetre of those walls, but the 95-year-old says nothing will compare to the pride he will have next week when he returns to the El Alamein War Cemetery in Egypt to honour those he fought beside.

Mr Carpenter will join a group of World War II veterans, led by Veterans’ Affairs Minister Warren Snowden, revisiting the battlefields of the North Africa Campaign and the Battle of El Alamein, where they helped defeat Axis forces 70 years ago.

Mr Carpenter, who fought in Libya, Egypt, Greece, Crete and Syria, served in the Army as part of the 2/4th Battalion and has returned to the Middle East several times since the end of the war.

The veterans will participate in memorial services at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, held at El Alamein War Cemetery, Egypt.

The cemetery holds more than 7000 fallen Commonwealth soldiers, including more than 1000 Australians.

“I’m terribly excited about setting down in North Africa and honouring all those who served, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice,” Mr Carpenter said, adding the daunting trip was unlikely to slow him down.

“I’ve been the president of the local RSL and the 2/4th Association.

I’ve been around the world twice and I’m the over-90s swimming champ at the Diggers Swim Club.

The key is: never stop,” he said.

The veterans, aged 88 to 95, represent every branch of the armed services and include former prisoners of war, a nurse and several members of the Rats of Tobruk.

As well as the 1000 dead, 200 Australians were listed missing, and 3600 wounded.

Mr Snowden will host a function for the veterans before they leave next week.

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