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Bundaberg commemorates Siege of Tobruk 80 years on

Rats of Tobruk
The Siege of Tobruk 80th Anniversary will be commemorated this weekend. Photo: The Rats of Tobruk Association

While the Siege of Tobruk 80th Anniversary in Bundaberg has been cancelled due to COVID restrictions, the Rats of Tobruk committee will be keeping the memory alive through their own personal reflections.

This weekend commemorates 80 years since the start of the Siege of Tobruk, a period in which around 14,000 Australian soldiers were besieged in Tobruk, Libya by a German-Italian army during the Second World War.

It's a time of reflection for Bundaberg President of the Rats of Tobruk Memorial Association Bruce Quinn, who said his own father was one of the extraordinary men and women who put their lives on the line for their country.

“Dad was in the 2/9th Battalion of the 18th Brigade in Tobruk and always said that he fought under the Australian flag for our great country,” he said.

“This anniversary is very special for myself and my family and is a time to recognise that we are able to live the lives that we have now, because of people like Dad who put their own lives on the line.

Rats of Tobruk
The Rats of Tobruk Memorial in Bundaberg.

“The Rats of Tobruk, like the ANZACs, sacrificed so much for their country.”

Bruce said the Rats of Tobruk Memorial Association was formed in 1997 to honour the local men and women who were involved in the siege.

“Nowadays, there are no known living Rats of Tobruk in the region so the association is made up of descendants,” he said.

“While our anniversary event for this weekend had to be cancelled, those descendants are more than welcome to place wreaths under the memorial monument in Takalvan Street.”

The Rats of Tobruk Bundaberg sub-branch registered members on record include:

  • Dr L McKoen
  • I Story
  • H Liddle
  • E Wolfenden
  • T Pulsford
  • C Kendall
  • J O’Brien
  • E Walker
  • A Jobson
  • I Jobson
  • N Ross
  • C Davis
  • N Cayley
  • L Haberman
  • N Campbell
  • R McPherson
  • L Quinn
  • V Atkinson
  • W Koch
  • W Steemson
  • J Stewart
  • E Stopford
  • G Clarke
  • C Kelly C Russell
  • W Amamoor – Castles
  • W Tilley
  • SF Abbott
  • J Gilbert G Hole
  • C Latimore
  • N Branch
  • J Branchett
  • C Tietzel
  • G Banks
  • W Dawson
  • J Smith
  • F Gulley
  • A Davidson
  • C Cameron
  • J Thomas
  • E Kingston
  • R Kinnest
  • L Tregear
  • S Greer
  • G Boreham
  • T Dexter
  • R Wood
  • N Jackson
  • A Redshaw
  • J Stephenson
  • J Hoy
  • T Stevenson
  • J Shallcross
  • N Jackson
  • J Roe
  • FC Page
  • J Ryan
  • J Toohey
  • E Moir
  • W McDonald
  • E Turner
  • H Johnson
  • H Emmett
  • W Wedge
  • E Clayton
  • R Everett
  • A Whalley
  • E Clayton
  • J Liddell
  • SA Gower
  • T Ames
  • H Roder
  • K Smith
  • B Cowie
  • D Greaves
  • L Johnston
  • A Thrupp
  • A Cran
  • V McLennon
  • D Payne

History of The Rats of Tobruk

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester said it was vital for the Allies’ to hold the town of Tobruk with its harbour to stall the enemy’s advance into Egypt and forced them to bring most of their supplies overland from the port of Tripoli across 1500 km of desert.

“Tobruk was subject to repeated ground assaults and constant shelling and bombing for around eight months and the men who served there were dubbed as the Rats of Tobruk by the enemy, a term that was embraced as an ironic compliment,” Mr Chester said.

The Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy provided the garrison's main link to its supply base.

They were dubbed the “Scrap Iron Flotilla” by German propagandists and referred to as the “Tobruk Ferry” service by the besieged soldiers.

“The combined navies provided invaluable support and lost numerous ships, sunk and damaged during the siege,” Mr Chester said.

“Half of the Australian troops were relieved in August, the second half in September and October.

“However one unit, the 2/13th Battalion, was unable to be evacuated and remained in Tobruk until the siege was lifted in December 1941.

“Over the course of the siege, the 9th Australian Division and attached troops lost over 830 men killed, more than 2,170 injured and around 940 taken prisoner.

“We remember ‘The Rats of Tobruk’ — the service and sacrifice of these brave men will never be forgotten. Lest we forget.”

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