El Alamein 75th Anniversary at Australian War Memorial attended by Mt George veteran

Memorabilia: A letter and a postcard from Ossie, to loved ones in Australia, dated 1941. Photo: supplied
Memorabilia: A letter and a postcard from Ossie, to loved ones in Australia, dated 1941. Photo: supplied

“I was at El Alamein when the first shots were fired and I was there six months later when the last shots were fired.”

Oscar ‘Ossie’ Paff, born and bred in Mt George and now a sometimes resident, is 95 years old, and there is nothing wrong with his memory.

“There were a lot of battles going on, and they only lasted two days, some lasted two minutes. This lasted for months and it was a very long, drawn out event,” Ossie said.

On Monday, October 23 Ossie joined 22 other war veterans at Canberra for a Last Post commemorative ceremony honouring those who served in the six-month-long Battle of El Alamein. The moving ceremony at the Australian War Memorial also included a lone piper playing a lament.

“I didn’t know any of [the others] but there was a wonderful camaraderie - backslapping, tale-telling. It was a really wonderful thing to meet fellows that had been through the same event that I had so long ago.”

Watch the video of the ceremony (starts at 6:15 minutes):

Ossie said he was one of the youngsters attending. 

“There were two there aged 100. The remainder were round about my age.”

The ‘remainder’ must have did what Ossie did – “put their ages up” so they could enlist and serve for their country, as Ossie was underage when he enlisted.

“I couldn’t get my mother’s permission, so being a kid as i was, I walked from our farm at Krambach to Gloucester. I walked all night in the dark on my own and enlisted at Gloucester,” Ossie said.

As he enlisted in Gloucester, Ossie’s name graces the Honour Roll at the Gloucester RSL Club. 

After returning from the war, Ossie said he felt “a bit lost for a while”. He soon enlisted with the police force, where her served for 35 years around the State, finishing up at Police Headquarters in Sydney and retiring as a Chief Insector. 

While stationed at Cowra, he met and married his wife Alma. He also met Italians who had fought as the ‘enemy’ at El Alamein. 

“I was at El Alamein with many of the Italians who were enemies and surrendered. I met up with those same fellows in Cowra,” Ossie said.

“When the Japanese prisoners left after the outbreak at Cowra they were replaced by the Italian prisoners. Some of those Italian prisoners were taken at El Alamein. Some of them went back to Italy, and returned to Australia and settled at Cowra. Some of them married there, bought properties there, and today their offspring are highly respected citizens.”

Ossie and Alma now live both at Newcastle and at Ida Lake at Mount George.

“I worked there as a kid, lived there and now I’ve been back there now since I’ve retired,” Ossie said.