Source: Imperial War Museums
The Siege of Tobruk was a confrontation that lasted for 241 days between Axis and Allied forces in North Africa during the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War. The siege started on 11 February 1941, when Tobruk was attacked by an Italo–German force under Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel, and continued for 240 days up to 27 November 1941, when it was relieved by the Allied 8th Army during Operation Crusader.
It was vital for the Allies' defence of Egypt and the Suez Canal to hold the town with its harbour, as this forced the enemy to bring most of their supplies overland from the port of Tripoli, across 1,500 kilometres (930 mi) of desert, as well as diverting troops from their advance. Tobruk was subject to repeated ground assaults and almost constant shelling and bombing. The Nazi propaganda called the tenacious defenders "rats", a term that the Australian soldiers embraced as an ironic compliment. Read through the resources below to learn more.
Between April and August 1941 around 14,000 Australian soldiers were besieged in Tobruk by a German–Italian army commanded by General Erwin Rommel. The garrison, commanded by Lieutenant General Leslie Morshead, consisted of the 9th Division (20th, 24th, and 26th Brigades), the 18th Brigade of the 7th Division, along with four regiments of British artillery and some Indian troops. This article looks at the significance of the siege and the number of casualties.
A very brief overview of the Siege of Tobruk, including photos from the siege. The website also contains links to other useful resources.
This article gives a brief overview of the Siege of Tobruk, but also goes into detail about the history of two soldiers from the Siege, including primary sources such as letters.
This website has archival footage of propaganda about the Siege of Tobruk created by Charles Chauvel about the Allied efforts to defend Tobruk.
Around 14,000 Australians were in Tobruk during the siege. After they returned to Australia, the veterans looked for continued comradeship. They wanted to perpetuate the ties created amongst those who were in Tobruk during the siege and to ensure any in need were supported. In 1944, the Rats of Tobruk Association, NSW was established. This was followed by the establishment of the Victorian Branch on 2nd October 1945. From there, other branches and sub-branches were established across Australia. This website serves that Association and has a number of useful resources, including honour rolls and first hand accounts.
This website includes lots of quotes from German soldiers about the tenacity of Australian soldiers and is a good place for some primary sources.
The siege of Tobruk lasted 240 days but from August the Australian were gradually relieved being evacuated by ship to Alexandria. However, one battalion, the 2/13th Battalion remained in Tobruk until the British offensive, Operation Crusader relived the town in December. Like the fighting on the Kokoda Track, and the First World War battles at Gallipoli, Tobruk holds a special meaning to many Australians. Read through this website to learn more.
The Siege of Tobruk was one of the greatest Allied victories, followed by one of the worst Allied defeats, of the Second World War. Here, David Mitchelhill-Green explains its significance and shares eight lesser-known facts.
The Australian, British and Polish divisions under siege in Tobruk were twice attacked by Rommel's forces, and both times retained control of the Libyan port. The siege was lifted after nearly eight months. Read through this fact file to learn more.