Heat beats returning WWII veteran
He still remembers vividly the four years he spent fighting Axis forcesJIMMY HICK
World War II veteran Joseph Topping may not have made it to the 70th anniversary of the battle of El Alamein, but he did see the positive side of his unsuccessful trip.
The 92-year-old was set to attend the official commemoration ceremony of one of the most decisive battles of WWII, but the blazing sun he faced during the Egypt campaign got the better of him in Dubai airport.
"I was happy in one way," the New Plymouth man said.
"I got to fly back in business class."
Mr Topping was one of 23 New Zealand veterans of El Alamein set to attend the ceremony in northern Egypt, but after landing in Dubai, he decided he couldn't make it all the way to the historic desert battleground.
"Ten years ago we would have made it," said Mr Topping.
He still remembers vividly the four years he spent fighting Axis forces with the 7th Anti-Tank Regiment.
Mr Topping and his wife Sylvia said despite not making it to El Alamein, they were very thankful to the support they received from the New Zealand Veterans Affairs Association.
"They were spot on with the organisation - a nurse to every two jokers, and they didn't spare any expense," Mr Topping said.
A commemoration service was also held in Wellington for El Alamein veterans who couldn't make the trip back.
Fellow New Plymouth WWII veteran Jack Kettlewell, who fought at El Alamein at the age of 20, attended the Wellington ceremony and said he considered heading back to Egypt but decided against it.
"I thought about it for about five seconds," he said.
"But I went there for the 50th anniversary 20 years ago. There's not many of us left."
The Allied campaign in Northern Africa saw almost 10,000 Kiwi soldiers killed or wounded.
El Alamein itself is the final resting place of 1100 New Zealanders. Jimmy Hick is a Witt journalism student
- © Fairfax NZ News
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