El Alamein Commemoration – Monday 23 October 2017 – 11am @ The Memorial

El Alamein Commemoration – Monday 23 October 2017 – 11am @ The Memorial

75th Anniversary of the Battle of El Alamein – Monday 23 October 2017 at 11 am – with Christie Johnstone


Members of the Flinders community are invited to join the Flinders RSL Sub Branch at a unique ceremony at 11 am on Monday 23 October 2017 at the World War II Memorial, Flinders. Marking the 75th anniversary of the commencement of the Battle of El Alamein, this is an opportunity to commemorate our brave soldiers, all volunteers. It is anticipated that the ceremony will conclude at 11.15 am.

There were three young men from Flinders at El Alamein: Wally Everett (address unknown), Herbert “Snowy” Cairns and Christie Johnstone. Christie, now aged 97, will be present at the ceremony.

This battle was of tremendous significance in the context of World War II. Field Marshal Rommel with his crack Panzer divisions was determined to break through the Allied 30 mile wide frontline and continue on to capture Alexandria, the Suez Canal and the oil wells of the Middle East. General Montgomery had positioned the Australian 9th Division, known as the “Rats of Tobruk”, at El Alamein, a small town between Tobruk and Alexandria on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The Australians had a three mile wide section of the frontline to defend. Rommel attacked relentlessly 24/7, trying to blast his way through the Australian lines. In the most remarkable victory, the Australian troops changed the course of the war. The Australian infantry, artillery and the RAAF fought tenaciously holding the line, and then in an all-out attack commencing on 1 November 1942 they overwhelmed the German forces, who turned and ran. It was the first victory for the Allies in World War II.

On being told of the victory, Churchill, who never mentioned Australians in war, acknowledged their victory obliquely by saying:

“This is not the end; it is not the beginning of the end, but perhaps it is the end of the beginning.”

Church bells rang out across England to celebrate the victory. It was the first time that the bells had been rung since the war began in 1939.

In Australia we had little time to recognise the great victory by our troops: we were on the verge of invasion by the rampant Japanese army and, to compound our fears, the 9th Division was in Egypt as part of the British 8th Army with the challenge of defeating Rommel.

The Flinders RSL believes this is an opportunity to give recognition to the Australian heroes who survived El Alamein. Whereas the average casualty rate for the other Commonwealth armies at Alamein was 4%, the Australian casualty rate was 20%.