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‘Where was the rest of the Company? Why was no one else firing? Herb turned to look, and before him saw the shocking truth. He was alone. No one was following . . . there was no one left to follow. He was the last man standing.’

The Battle of El Alamein was one of the turning points of the Second World War. Churchill later reflected, ‘It might be said that before El Alamein we never had a victory; after El Alamein we never had a defeat.’

The Australian 9th Division played a major part in the victory at El Alamein and was given high praise from Montgomery, Churchill and even Rommel, who said, ‘I could have won North Africa with a division of Australians under my command.’ But victory came at a heavy price with the lives of 1177 Australians lost at El Alamein, almost as many as in Kokoda and Tobruk combined.

Herb Ashby was wounded in the Siege of Tobruk and served in the Battle of El Alamein. With three Victoria Crosses awarded to his battalion during the campaign, including two to his platoon, Herb assisted his battalion to become the most highly decorated Australian battalion in the war.

This is Herb’s story of the Tobruk, El Alamein and war in the Western Desert.