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10 April - Valour by Rats of Tobruk under Lt Gen Morshead.

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10 April - Valour by Rats of Tobruk under Lt Gen Morshead.

Unread postby Max ADU » Wed Apr 10, 2013 2:23 pm

Today in Australian History -
10 April 1941

See also Tobruk video at bottom


For much of the siege, Tobruk was defended by the reinforced Australian 9th Division under Lieutenant General Leslie Morshead.

Maintaining control of Tobruk was crucial to the Allied war effort in World War II. Other than Benghazi, Tobruk was home to the only other major port on the North African coast between Tripoli, Libya and Alexandria, Egypt.

Had the Allies
lost it, the German and Italian supply lines would have been drastically shortened. Rommel, furthermore, was in no position to attack across the Egyptian border towards Cairo and Alexandria while the Tobruk garrison threatened the lines of supply to his front-line units.

"The Rats" stop Rommel
Tobruk marked the first time that the advance of the German Panzers had been brought to a halt.

General Sir Archibald Wavell instructed Morshead to hold the fortress for two months while the rest of Wavell's forces reorganised and mounted a relief mission.

The 9th Australian Division held it for over five months before being gradually withdrawn during September.

An important part of Morshead's tactics was conducting offensive operations when these were possible.


"Tobruk can take it!"

His attitude was summed up in a reported remark, made when his attention was drawn to a British propaganda article entitled "Tobruk can take it!"

Morshead commented: "we're not here to take it, we're here to give it."

Aggressive use of snipers, artillery and counter-attacks achieved surprise at crucial junctures, and kept Rommel's forces off balance.

Keep Rommel off balance
The Axis troops learned to fear the aggressive patrolling of the Australian infantry who dominated no-man's-land and made constant raids on enemy forward positions for intelligence, to take prisoners, to disrupt attack preparations and mine laying operations, even to steal supplies that were not available in Tobruk.

The Tobruk Ferry Service, made up of Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy warships, played an important role in Tobruk's defence, providing gunfire support, supplies, fresh troops and ferrying out the wounded.

Following Operation Crusader, the siege of Tobruk was lifted in December, 1941. Axis forces captured the fortress in 1942 after defeating allied forces in the Battle of Gazala.

Watch on youtube.com
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