Vet heading back to Egypt
'I'm very pleased I have had the opportunity'LOUISE BERWICK
It was a long time at sea when Maurice Abrahams first travelled to Egypt. Now 70 years later he is returning, this time by plane.
Mr Abrahams is packing his bag, and hopefully his saxophone, as he prepares to make his way to the El Alamein anniversary in North Africa.
The 93-year-old was 21 when he set foot in Egypt during World War II. Seven decades later, he has been chosen as one of 24 New Zealand veterans of the North African campaign to attend the commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the battle of El Alamein.
He served in Egypt and Greece from 1940-1943.
“I'm very pleased I have had the opportunity to go away to represent New Zealand and Nelson.”
While he said it would be a long way to travel for only two weeks, it was his first overseas trip in 14 years and he was looking forward to the journey by plane, instead of boat.
“The fact is, as soon as you get that opportunity it gives your mind a little bit to work on.”
He has been walking regularly to prepare for the trip, including up to the Centre of New Zealand.
Mr Abrahams has several stories from the war, many include his saxophone which he played regularly for the soldiers.
However, when he was evacuated from Greece he was forced to leave behind his beloved saxophone, which had accompanied him from New Zealand.
It was not until he arrived in Egypt from Greece that he was told one of the transport officers had found it and knowing how important it was to him, had brought it to Egypt.
Mr Abrahams hopes he will be able to take his saxophone to Egypt again this month, as he would like to be able to play again for the returning soldiers.
He has practised by performing his war tunes in rest homes in Nelson.
While he is looking forward to the commemorations in Egypt, he hoped this would not be the last commemorations he would attend - he would like to travel to Gallipoli for the centenary celebrations.
Veterans' Affairs New Zealand general manager Rick Ottaway said it would be an emotional experience for the veterans.
“These are brave men who have some incredible stories to tell from their time serving in the North Africa campaign.”
Mr Abrahams will begin his journey, funded by Veterans' Affairs New Zealand, on October 12.
- © Fairfax NZ News