Desert rat recalls comrades' sacrifice

DESERT Rat Sid Knight could not bear to look at the graves of his colleagues as he returned to the scene of one of the world's most famous battles.The war veteran was one of tens of thousands of soldiers who fought at El Alamein - where 19,000 Allied servicemen lost their lives.

DESERT Rat Sid Knight could not bear to look at the graves of his colleagues as he returned to the scene of one of the world's most famous battles.

The war veteran was one of tens of thousands of soldiers who fought at El Alamein - where 19,000 Allied servicemen lost their lives.

Mr Knight, 86, and his son Leslie - who accompanied him on the trip, part of the government's Heroes Return initiative - attended a memorial service in Egypt to mark the anniversary of the battle.

“It was very moving,” said Mr Knight, of Seaton Road, Felixstowe.

“There were thousands and thousands of graves but I didn't want to walk round them.

“When you stand back and think, we lived together and slept together in the same holes, but no-one really knew each other - it was Jack or Fred, but we never knew each other's full names. We were just all thrown together into the same situation.”

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In the week the nation remembers those who made the ultimate sacrifice, his son said: “I had a wander round the graves but I just kept thinking, I am so glad I am here with my dad - I could so easily have been here visiting his grave.

“The oldest I found was a man of 27 and he had been a major.”

When Mr Knight initially joined the Royal Artillery it was for six months and his wife Win was pregnant. When Leslie was born, it was six months before he found out and he was four-and-a-half before he saw him for the first time. He was in the Army six years before he was demobbed

“It was war time and that was the way things happened. Because we were moving around a letter could easily take six months to catch up with you - there were no mobile phones and laptops in those days!” said Mr Knight, a former chairman of Felixstowe Urban District Council.

He was astonished at the changes in Egypt over the past six decades.

They stayed at a five-star hotel on the beach in Cairo and everywhere was much cleaner, with many of the women in western dress, though the numbers of flies were still huge and persistent.

Where once there had been desert tracks, there now stood three-lane highways, and security was enormous everywhere, and Cleopatra's Needle had been removed to an underground museum.

“I could not find anywhere I remembered,” said Mr Knight, whose wife Win, a former mayor of Felixstowe, died last year.

Leslie said: “I couldn't believe the driving - they turned three lane carriageways into five simply by driving five-abreast, and then you would meet a man with a donkey cart coming in the other direction!”

One of the highlights of the trip was that the family had arranged for Mr Knight's second son Mick, who lives in Oman, to meet up with them while they were there.

If you have served in a war or a conflict we would like to hear your story? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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