Camilla salutes Norfolk Desert Rats

The Duchess of Cornwall joined Desert Rat veterans to commemorate the 65th anniversary of Battle of El Alamein where her father was wounded.

The Duchess of Cornwall joined Desert Rat veterans to commemorate the 65th anniversary of Battle of El Alamein, where her father was wounded.

Arriving at the 7th Armoured Division Memorial in Thetford Forest, the duchess waved to the crowds and soldiers from an open-top car that belonged to Field Marshal Montgomery who led Allied troops to victory in the Egyptian desert.

She took the salute from the Royal Tank Regiment, the Guard of Honour on the parade ground, and attended a short service of remembrance conducted by the Bishop of Lynn, the Rt Rev James Langstaff, before laying a poppy wreath at the memorial.

After a minute's silence, she inspected several vehicles used in the campaign and met old comrades who told her stories of pride and dark humour in the face of adversity.

One of the veterans she spoke to was Robert Curson, 88, a staff sergeant attached to the Desert Rats, who lives in Mattishall.

"She told how her father, Maj Bruce Shand, was injured and captured during the battle," he said. "My main duties were reconnaissance and car maintenance. Conditions were tough in the desert and it could get so hot that bully beef would melt in the can."

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Another veteran, Len Burritt, 89, from Bracknell, who met Maj Shand during the campaign was grateful for the royal visit.

Before entering the marquee to join the old soldiers for a cup of tea, the duchess stopped to pat a Sherman tank as she passed.

John Labouchere, vice-chairman of Breckland District Council, was among the civic leaders who accompanied Camilla on her visit.

"It is a very important moment for our district and for me. My father, Peter Labouchere, was a colonel with the 3rd Hussars who fought in the battle. My son, David, is also a colonel with the Queen's Royal Hussars."

Sidney Hunt, from Bar Hill, near Cambridge, was a trooper with the 4th Queen's Own Hussars and served in a Sherman tank with four comrades.

"I met Monty twice. He gave really good pep talks.

"Winston Churchill also inspected the troops before the battle. I never met him," he said. "Temperatures could go up to 120F in the desert. It was pretty tough."

Leading the guard of honour, Regimental Sgt Maj Iain Thomson said the old comrades were an inspiration to the younger soldiers and officers who are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

South West Norfolk MP Christopher Fraser said it was important for people to recognise and commemorate events which helped swing the war in the Allies' favour.

poppy appeal launch - Page 4

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