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El Alamein battle
Pottery pilgrim bottle, for storing water from the spring of Saint Menas. Byzantine period. From Alexandria, Egypt. The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London
According to orthodox Christian belief, in June 1942, during the North-Africa campaign that was decisive for the outcome of the Second World War, the German forces under the command of General Rommel were on their way to Alexandria, and happened to make a halt near a place which the Arabs call El Alamein. An ancient ruined church nearby in Abu Mena was dedicated to Saint Menas; there some people say he is buried. Here the weaker Allied forces, including some Greeks, confronted the numerically and militarily superior German army, and the result of the coming battle of El Alamein seemed certain. During the first night of engagement, at midnight, Saint Menas came out of his ruined church and appeared in the midst of the German camp at the head of a caravan of camels, exactly as he was shown on the walls of the ruined church in one of the frescoes depicting his miracles. This astounding and terrifying apparition so undermined German morale that it contributed to the brilliant victory of the Allies. Winston Churchill said of this victory: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end, but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” He also wrote: “Before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein, we never had a defeat.