EL ALAMEIN WAR CEMETERY
Alamein is a village, bypassed by the main coast road, approximately 130
kilometres west of Alexandria on the road to Mersa Matruh.
The first Commission road direction sign is located just beyond the Alamein police checkpoint and all visitors should turn off from the main road onto the parallel old coast road.
The cemetery lies off the road, slightly beyond a ridge, and is indicated by road direction signs approximately 25 metres before the low metal gates and stone wing walls which are situated centrally at the road edge at the head of the access path into the cemetery. The Cross of Sacrifice feature may be seen from the road.
The cemetery is open every day from 07:00 - 17:00. Visitors should note
that when the gardeners leave the site at 14:30 the visitors book and register
book are also removed. Between 14:30 and 17:00 there is a police guard outside
the cemetery. Visitors arriving between these times will be given access, but
should bear in mind the absence of the books.
Wheelchair access is signposted.
The campaign in the Western Desert was fought between the Commonwealth
forces (with, later, the addition of two brigades of Free French and one each of
Polish and Greek troops) all based in Egypt, and the Axis forces (German and
Italian) based in Libya. The battlefield, across which the fighting surged back
and forth between 1940 and 1942, was the 1,000 kilometres of desert between
Alexandria in Egypt and Benghazi in Libya. It was a campaign of manoeuvre and
movement, the objectives being the control of the Mediterranean, the link with
the east through the Suez Canal, the Middle East oil supplies and the supply
route to Russia through Persia.
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 7,240 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War, of which 815 are unidentified. There are also 102 war graves of other nationalities.
The ALAMEIN CREMATION MEMORIAL, which stands in the south-eastern part of El Alamein War Cemetery, commemorates more than 600 men whose remains were cremated in Egypt and Libya during the war, in accordance with their faith.
PERCIVAL ERIC GRATWICK
Rank: Private, Service No: WX10426, Date of Death: Between 25/10/1942 and 26/10/1942, Age: 40, Regiment/Service: Australian Infantry A.I.F. 2/48 Bn. , Awards: V C, Grave Reference XXII. A. 6., Son of Ernest Albert and Eva Mary Gratwick, of Perth, Western Australia.
Citation: The citation in the London Gazette of 28th January, 1943, gives the following details: During an attack at Miteiriya Ridge on the night 25th-26th October, 1942, Private Gratwick's platoon was directed at strong enemy positions, but its advance was stopped by intense fire at short range which killed the platoon commander, the platoon serjeant and many others, reducing the platoon strength to seven. Private Gratwick, acting on his own initiative and with utter disregard for his own safety, charged the nearest post and completely destroyed the enemy with hand grenades. He charged a second post, from which the heaviest fire had been directed, and inflicted further casualties, but was killed within striking distance of his objective. By his brave and determined action, Private Gratwick's company was enabled to move forward and mop up its objective. His unselfish courage, his gallant and determined efforts against the heaviest opposition changed a doubtful situation into the successful capture of his company's final objective.
ARTHUR STANLEY GURNEY
Rank: Private, Service No: WX9858, Date of Death: 22/07/1942, Age: 33, Regiment/Service: Australian Infantry A.I.F. 2/48 Bn. , Awards: V C, Grave Reference XVI. H. 21., Son of George and Jane Gurney, of Victoria Park, Western Australia.
Citation: The citation in the London Gazette of 8th September, 1942, gives the following details: During an attack on strong German positions at Tell-El-Eisa on 22nd July, 1942, the company to which Private Gurney belonged was held up by intense enemy fire. Heavy casualties were suffered, all the officers being killed or wounded. Private Gurney without hesitation charged and silenced two machine-gun posts. At this stage he was knocked down by a stick grenade, but recovered and charged a third post, using his bayonet with great vigour. His body was found later in an enemy post. By this single-handed act of gallantry in the face of a determined enemy, Private Gurney enabled his company to press forward to its objective. The successful outcome of this engagement was almost entirely due to his heroism at the moment when it was needed.
WILLIAM HENRY KIBBY
Rank: Sergeant, Service No: SX7089, Date of Death: 31/10/1942, Age: 39, Regiment/Service: Australian Infantry A.I.F. 2/48 Bn. , Awards: V C, Grave Reference XVI. A. 18., Son of John Robert and Mary Isabella Kibby; husband of Sarah Mabel Kibby, of Helmsdale, South Australia.
Citation: The citation in the London Gazette of 28th January 1943 gives the following particulars: On 23rd October 1942, during the attack on Meteiriya Ridge, the commander of Serjeant Kibby's platoon was killed, and he assumed command. The platoon had to attack strong enemy positions holding up the advance of their Company. Without thought for his personal safety, Serjeant Kibby dashed forward firing his tommy-gun. This courageous lead resulted in the complete silencing of the enemy fire. On 26th October, under heavy and concentrated enemy artillery attack, Serjeant Kibby not only moved constantly from section to section cheering the men and directing their fire, but several times went out and restored the line of communication. On the night of 30th-31st October, again undeterred by withering enemy fire which mowed down his platoon, Serjeant Kibby pressed on towards the objective. Finally he went forward alone throwing grenades to destroy the last pocket of resistance, then only a few yards away, and was killed. Such outstanding courage, tenacity of purpose and devotion to duty was entirely responsible for the successful capture of the Company's objective. His work was an inspiration to all and he left behind him an example and memory of a soldier who fearlessly and unselfishly fought to the end to carry out his duty.
ADAM HERBERT WAKENSHAW
Rank: Private, Service No: 4270383, Date of Death: 27/06/1942, Age: 28, Regiment/Service: Durham Light Infantry 9th Bn. , Awards: V C, Grave Reference XXXII. D. 9., Son of Thomas and Mary Wakenshaw, of Newcastle-on-Tyne; husband of Dorothy Ann Wakenshaw, of Newcastle-on-Tyne.
Citation: The London Gazette for 8th September, 1942, gives the following details: On the 27th June, 1942, south of Mersa Matruh, Private Wakenshaw was a member of the crew of a 2-pounder anti-tank gun. An enemy tracked vehicle towing a light gun came within short range. The gun crew opened fire and succeeded in immobilising the enemy vehicle. Another mobile gun came into action, killed or seriously wounded the crew manning the 2-pounder, including Private Wakenshaw, and silenced the 2-pounder. Under intense fire, Private Wakenshaw crawled back to his gun. Although his left arm was blown off, he loaded the gun with one arm and fired five more rounds, setting the tractor on fire and damaging the light gun. A direct hit on the ammunition finally killed him and destroyed the gun. This act of conspicuous gallantry prevented the enemy from using their light gun on the infantry Company which was only 200 yards away. It was through the self sacrifice and courageous devotion to duty of this infantry anti-tank gunner that the Company was enabled to withdraw and to embus in safety.
The entrance to the cemetery is formed by the ALAMEIN MEMORIAL. The Land Forces panels commemorate more than 8,500 soldiers of the Commonwealth who died in the campaigns in Egypt and Libya, and in the operations of the Eighth Army in Tunisia up to 19 February 1943, who have no known grave. It also commemorates those who served and died in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Persia.
The Air Forces panels commemorate more than 3,000 airmen of the Commonwealth who died in the campaigns in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Greece, Crete and the Aegean, Ethiopia, Eritrea and the Somalilands, the Sudan, East Africa, Aden and Madagascar, who have no known grave. Those who served with the Rhodesian and South African Air Training Scheme and have no known grave are also commemorated here.
The cemetery was designed by Sir J. Hubert Worthington.
George Henry Hellyer
Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
20th November 1941, aged 23.
Son of George Henry and Ellen Hellyer, of Plymouth.
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