El Alamein Cemetery Memorial

Egypt

The El Alamein War Cemetery is located just 500 metres down the road (east) from the El Alamein War Museum. Entrance to the cemetery is gained through the Alamein Memorial (also referred to as the El Alamein War Memorial) – a large stone structure at the northern end of the cemetery featuring a series of arches. This is accessed via a 100 metre path leading down from the road down (south). The arches of the Alamein Memorial, one of which is pictured on the borders of the image here, make the El Alamein War Cemetery one of the most recognisable war cemeteries in Egypt.

The designer of the cemetery, the British architect Sir Hubert Worthingon, decided to work with the natural environment and thus the resulting cemetery blends in with much of the surrounding area around El Alamein. The rough, dry desert environment continues within the cemetery walls, with the addition of some carefully maintained plants.

The cemetery was unveiled by Field Marshal The Rt. Hon. Viscout Montgomery of Alamein on 24 October, 1954. It was Montgomery who took command of the Eight Army in August, 1943, and who led the Allied forces to victory during the Second Battle of El Alamein and the remainder of the Western Desert Campaign.

Image: The El Alamein War Memorial forms the entrance to the El Alamein War Cemetery.

Creator: Nathan Wise

Upon walking through the arches of the El Alamein War Memorial, the large size of the cemetery is revealed. This is the main Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery for those who died in the fighting around El Alamein in 1942, but it also contains the graves of men who died at other stages of the Western Desert campaigns. In particular, the fighting during this campaign often extended far out into Egypt’s Western Desert, and casualties of that fighting were often relocated to the El Alamein War Cemetery.

Within this cemetery are the graves of 6425 identified Commonwealth casualties, and 815 unidentified casualties, plus an additional 102 graves of soldiers from nations outside the Commonwealth. Included are about 1188 Australians from various arms of the military. Australian forces played a key role throughout much of the Western Desert Campaign. Australian airmen were heavily involved in the air war, ships of the Royal Australian Navy were often active in the Mediterranean Sea to the north, and the actions of the Second Australian Imperial Force were critical on the ground, in particular during the Second Battle of El Alamein.

Image: The Cross of Sacrifice at the El Alamein War Cemetery.

Creator: Christopher Karykides

Visitors can walk up to the top of the El Alamein War Memorial via one of the two staircases on either end to get a great panoramic view of the surrounding area. This image looks down (south) over the cemetery from the top-centre of the Alamein Memorial towards the Stone of Remembrance in the centre, and the Cross of Sacrifice at the back. Outside of this shot, on the far left (east) wall of the cemetery lies the Alamein Cremation Memorial. This serves to commemorate more than 600 service personnel who were cremated in this theatre of the Second World War, as per their wishes.

This view also further emphasises Sir Hubert Worthington’s efforts in working with the local environment to create a cemetery with more natural features. The appearance of the El Alamein War Cemetery is a stark contrast from the bright green grasses of many other urban-based cemeteries, such as those in Cairo and Alexandria. As seen in this image, the dusty headstones blend in with the rocky desert floor to give an almost natural appearance.

Image: A panoramic view over the cemetery from above the El Alamein War Memorial.

Creator: Christopher Karykides.

Throughout all the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries, officers and men are buried beneath headstones in identical styles. This was a decision made by CWGC to ensure that there would be no visible class distinction between the graves of the typically wealthy officers, and the relatively less wealthy men of the rank-and-file.

This image shows the grave of Brigadier Arthur Harry Langham Godfrey. Godfrey was a long-serving Australian soldier. He had previously enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force during the First World War, during which he had risen to the rank of Captain. He continued to serve with the Militia during the inter-war period and when the Second World War broke out he served again with the Second Australian Imperial Force.

After taking command of the 2/6 Battalion of the Second Australian Imperial Force, Godfrey received the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his ‘initiative and coolness in command of his Battalion under intense fire’ during the Battle of Bardia in January, 1941. Several months later, after taking command of 24 Infantry Brigade, Godfrey received a Bar to the D.S.O for leading his brigade during the Siege of Tobruk.

In early November, 1942, during the critical Second Battle of El Alamein, Godfrey’s command post was hit by an enemy shell. Godfrey suffered an abdominal wound in the attack, and later died on 4 November 1942.

Image: The grave of A. H. L. Godfrey in the El Alamein War Cemetery

Creator: Christopher Karykides

 

Sources:

Commonwealth War Graves Commission, http://www.cwgc.org/

Traces of War http://www.tracesofwar.com

The Argus , Melbourne, Victoria, Monday 9 November, 1942.

Philip Longworth, The Unending Vigil: The History of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Leo Cooper, Barnsley, 2003.

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