1941 anniversary exhibition
1941 was a year of battle. It was a time of victories and defeat. Australian soldiers, sailors, and airmen fought their first major battles of the Second World War in North Africa and in the Mediterranean. Australian and British troops won a series of early successes in Libya and later in Syria. But they also suffered greatly on mainland Greece and on Crete. When a rapid German offensive swept the British from Libya, all that stopped the Germans from continuing into Egypt was the defiant garrison at Tobruk.
For the eight months from April until December 1941, Australian and British soldiers – with Indian, Polish, and Czech troops – held Tobruk against besieging German and Italian forces. British and Australian warships helped keep the defenders supplied, bringing in food, ammunition, and reinforcements, and evacuating the wounded. Australian airmen, meanwhile, made an important contribution to the air war fought above the desert battlefields.
2011 marks the 70th anniversary of the first Australian battles of the war. To commemorate these significant events, planning is now well under way for a special anniversary exhibition that will open at the Memorial in March 2011. Drawing on the Memorial’s rich collection of war relics, photographs, artworks, and documents, this exhibition will highlight Australia’s involvement in these early campaigns with a specific focus on the famous siege of Tobruk.
In the weeks and months to come, the Memorial’s historians and curators will be featuring some of the stories and experiences of different men and women who served in the Middle East during 1941 as we prepare for the exhibition’s opening next year.