Wellington commemorates Battle of El Alamein

By Talisa Kupenga

The 75th commemorations of the Second Battle of El Alamein, where more than 10,000 New Zealand soldiers were killed or injured, was held in Wellington today.

A commemoration for those who served in what is known as the longest and most important WW2 campaign fought by New Zeland soldiers.

Youth Cadet Deandre Kariko says, "it was a very important battle for the allies trying to break through the Axis enemy lines."

Russ Caldwell's great uncle, Lance Corporal Andy Gourlay, was an infantry soldier at El Alamein for the 28th Māori Battalion B Company. Gourlay was originally rejected because he had tuberculosis as a child.

“He enlisted and a few days later was kicked out but he went over to Tauranga from Maketu and re-enlisted in his brother's name, then re-joined his whānaunga [relatives] and went to Egypt and fought over there."

The commemorations come a day after the swearing-in of the new government which has promised a Legacy Māori Battalion Museum in Northland.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters says, "the reality is, here's Ngata he's at Waitangi and he's telling young Māori soldiers going off to their death that that's the price of being equal in New Zealand. That's why it's significant."

A project Caldwell supports. 

"I think that's great. I think all the four companies should have their commemoration. I think that nationally we should be commemorating the Māori Battalion." 

More than 1100 New Zealanders are buried at El Alamein's Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery. The largest number of soldiers buried in one cemetery outside of New Zealand.