• Australians standing by in a hot section of the front, 400 yards from the enemy. 009514 Australians standing by in a hot section of the front.
    009514

    2011 marks the 70th anniversary of Australia’s first major battles of the Second World War. These actions and campaigns were fought in the Middle East and the Mediterranean where the three Australian services were continuously in action throughout 1941.

    The second year of the war had begun with a series of impressive British and Commonwealth successes against the Italians in Libya. Australian troops led the advance. But a rapid German offensive quickly reversed these early victories. All that stopped the Germans’ march on Egypt was the defiant garrison at Tobruk.

    For eight long months, surrounded by German and Italian forces, the men of the Tobruk garrison, mostly Australians, withstood tank attacks, artillery barrages, and daily bombings. They endured the desert’s searing heat, the bitterly cold nights, and hellish dust storms. They lived in dug-outs, caves, and crevasses.

    The defenders of Tobruk did not surrender, they did not retreat. Their determination, bravery, and humour, combined with the aggressive tactics of their commanders, became a source of inspiration during some of the war’s darkest days. In so doing, they achieved lasting fame as the “Rats of Tobruk”.

    This special anniversary exhibition is on display in the Memorial until 16 November 2011.

    Exhibition dates
    18 March 2011 - 16 November 2011

    More information

    Watch our video

    War stories: The Rats of Tobruk, featuring Memorial historian Dr Karl James discussing the exhibition "Rats of Tobruk 1941".

    Eygpt,27 September 1941: Men of the 24th Infantry Brigade after their voyage from Tobruk. 020461 Eygpt, September 1941:
    Men of the 24th Infantry
    Brigade after their
    voyage from Tobruk.
    020461
    Members of the 2/13th Battalion on patrol along the anti-tank ditch. 007505 Members of the 2/13th
    Battalion on patrol
    along the anti-tank
    ditch.
    007505
    Engineers  in a dugout furnished with bits from wrecked ships. 009515 Engineers in a dugout
    furnished with bits from
    wrecked ships.
    009515
    Members of the 2/17 infantry battalion 020286 Members of the 2/17
    infantry battalion.
    020738


     
    Department of Veterans Affairs