An Evensong to commemorate the 70th anniversary of El Alamein was held at Westminster Abbey today at 3.00pm and attended by General Sir David Richards, Chief of the Defence Staff, representing Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall; The Rt Hon Mark Francois, MP, Minister of State for Defence Personnel Welfare and Veterans; General Sir Peter Wall, Chief of the General Staff; The Viscount Montgomery of Alamein and many veterans of the battle.
Often referred to as a turning point of the Second World War, the Battle of El Alamein (known officially as the Second Battle of El Alamein) took place between 23 October and 4 November 1942. Under the command of General Montgomery, nearly 200,000 British, Australian, New Zealand, South African, Indian, Free French, Greek and Polish Forces defeated the Axis Powers, together with air support from the Royal Air Force and Fleet Air Arm, and with Royal Navy warships blocking enemy supply lines in the Mediterranean. The efforts of the Allies at El Alamein halted the Axis progress through Africa. However after the battle there were more than 4,000 Servicemen listed as killed or missing, and nearly 9,000 wounded.
In his Bidding, the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, said: ‘We gather in Westminster Abbey at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior for a national service of remembrance. We recall a hard-fought battle that marked a decisive shift in the balance of power and gave hope to the Allies: in Winston Churchill’s words not the beginning of the end but the end of the beginning of the Second World War.
We shall remember those who died in the battle and those who have died since, giving thanks for their courage and determination, and as we celebrate the reconciliation of former enemies we shall pray for lasting peace in the world.’
The Reverend Andrew Tremlett, Canon of Westminster and Rector of St Margaret’s Church, read Isaiah 35: 1-10. The Viscount Montgomery of Alamein read Romans 12: 9-18; 13: 11-12.
The service included an Act of Remembrance during which wreaths were borne from the High Altar to the Grave of the Unknown Warrior. General Sir David Richards, Chief of the Defence Staff, on behalf of Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall, and General Sir Peter Wall, Chief of the General Staff, laid the wreaths at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior.
The Dean of Westminster said: ‘Here at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior let us remember all those who fought and fell at the Battle of El Alamein. As we commemorate their sacrifice with thanksgiving, we commend them to the unfailing love of our heavenly Father.’
Prayers were led by the Dean of Westminster.
The Address was given by The Reverend Jonathan Woodhouse, Chaplain-General to Her Majesty’s Land Forces.
The service was sung by the Westminster Abbey Special Service Choir conducted by Robert Quinney, Sub-Organist. The organ was played by Peter Holder, Organ Scholar.
The Order of Service, (PDF, 82 KB)