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Friends thought lost in battle are reunited

This image shows Frederick Maurer and John Hair reunited after 75 years.

Frederick Maurer and John Hair are reunited after 75 years.

Friends John Hair and Frederick Maurer were wounded on the battlefield at El Alamein. Each believed that the other had been among the many killed in that campaign, until they were happily reunited, 75 years later.

The second battle of El Alamein, a strategic location in Egypt, was a decisive battle in the Second World War. It was part of a campaign led by the British 8th Army that lasted from July to November 1942. The second battle began on 23 October and continued to 4 November, when the Axis forces retreated, marking a turning point in the war.

The Australian 9th Division featured prominently in the El Alamein campaign, and suffered almost 6,000 casualties out of a force of 15,000.

After first arriving in Egypt in 1941, John Hair and Frederick Maurer were sent to Syria to join the 2/23rd Battalion of the 9th Division. The 2/23rd Battalion's nickname, Albury's Own, came from the high number of recruits who had joined from Albury and Wodonga.

From Syria, Mr Hair and Mr Maurer were deployed to El Alamein. Early in the second battle, Mr Hair sustained a shrapnel wound to his leg when a shell exploded nearby. Within hours, across the battlefield, Mr Maurer was shot through the eye. Neither knew the other's fate.

Each of the friends spent several months in hospital in Egypt before being transported home to Australia, where they settled in Victoria. Their paths did not cross again for three-quarters of a century.

On 23 October 2017, DVA hosted a reception in Canberra to mark the 75th anniversary of the second battle of El Alamein. Mr Hair and Mr Maurer attended.

They recognised each other instantly. Mr Hair said of his friend after their joyful reunion, 'I knew who he was immediately. He looks just the same, a little bit older and a little bit wiser.'

The reception was one of several hosted by DVA to mark the 75th anniversaries of landmark battles of the Second World War, including the Battle of Milne Bay, the Battle of Kokoda, the Battle of the Beachheads, and the Battle of the Atlantic. DVA provided support to enable 50 veterans of the battles and their carers to attend commemorations and receptions.

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