World War II Indian heroism recalled in Egypt (Lead, With Images)

Last Updated: Mon, Oct 22, 2012 08:50 hrs

Cairo, Oct 22 (IANS) The Indian embassy organised a memorial service here to salute the heroism of Indian soldiers who died in a decisive World War II battle that sealed the fate of Hitler's Afrika Korps.

India's ambassador Navdeep Suri and a number of senior diplomats and military officials from friendly countries placed wreaths at the memorial Saturday, an embassy statement said.

The simple but solemn ceremony was part of the 70th anniversary of the Battle of El Alamein being celebrated at El Alamein, where Indian soldiers displayed courage thousands of miles away from their motherland.

The El Alamein battle was fought in two phases in 1942 -- from July 1 to 27 and from Oct 23 to Nov 4 -- in the deserts of North Africa.

The Allied victory led to the retreat of Rommel's Afrika Corps and to its eventual surrender in May 1943.

Suri said the stellar role of the Indian Army in El Alamein was recognised by Rommel himself.

Suri drew attention to the book, "North African Campaign 1940-1943" by J.K.W. Bingham and Warner Haupt, which says the capture of Ruweisat Ridge in a combined attack of 5 Indian Division and New Zealand Division July 15, 1942 was the turning point in the battle.

Almost 25,000 officers and men of the Indian Army took part in the North Africa campaign, and over 3,000 died in the sands of northern Sahara. The El Alamein battle accounted for 800 deaths.

Suri said a majority of the Indians who died were in their teens.

They included Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims from the Indian subcontinent. The annual memorial service, he said, ensures that their sacrifices are not forgotten.

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