Wartime altar goes to El Adem
IN the famous wartime desert air station of El Adem, used in turn by the Italians, Germans and the Royal Air Force, the officers and men of the present R.A.E. staff, helped by German prisoners, have built their own Catholic church—St. Gabriel's.
The station commander authorised two Nissen huts for the use of Catholics, one as a church, the other as a club.
The altar is a piece of desert salvage. It was found by airmen a few miles from the airfield and not far from the miles of minefields that still cover parts of the Western desert.
Made of polished stone. it stood in a semi-circle of rusted petrol cans that had obviously marked an openair "church " used by Italian soldiers.
As it was no longer in use and El Adem is an isolated spot—some 20 miles from Tobruk — the Catholic authorities in Cyrenaica gave permission for its removal to St. Gabriel's.
A sergeant fitter made the tabernacle.
Shell cases have been polished and are used as vases on the altar. Nuns in Malta have sent vestments and altar candlesticks,
Flight-Lt. I.. W. G. Detain, of St. Mary's parish. 'Falmouth, traffic officer at the El Adem staging post, who has been in the desert two-anda-half years, said : " Priests of many nationalities have officiated at St. Gabriel's.
"First we had a German prisonerof-war, Fr. Bruno Ammen, who has now returned to Germany. A French chaplain came next, and he was followed by an Irish priest, Fr. Murphy, an Italian, Fr. Pastorino from Benghazi. a Mauritian, Fr. Legaulle, Fr. R. Doherty, an R.A.F. chaplain, and the present chaplain, Fr. E. I. D. Warneken, who comes from Benghazi, 300 miles away.
Both the confessional and the cross outside the hut came from a church inside a nearby prisoner-ofwar camp, now disbanded.