On April 11, 2021 Australia will mark 80 years since the start of the Siege of Tobruk, which saw Australian soldiers, along with four regiments of British artillery and some Indian troops, besieged in Tobruk, Libya, by a German-Italian army during the second world war.

Around 14,000 Australians and other Allied troops tenaciously defended the town and harbour in Libya until December 1941.

They were dubbed as the ‘Rats of Tobruk’ by the enemy, a term that was embraced as an ironic compliment.

For the Allies, halting the enemy advance into Egypt was vital, and Australian soldiers ‘dug in’ despite being subjected to repeated ground assaults and constant shelling and bombing.

With the support of the Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy, the ‘Rats’ endured about eight long months of attacks from the German-Italian army before the siege ended.

Australia suffered a large number of casualties over the course of the siege, with over 830 killed, more than 2170 injured and around 940 prisoners taken.

A Rats of Tobruk Memorial stands on Anzac Parade in Canberra in honour of all those who served during this important period in the second world war.

As a nation, we remember and thank the Rats of Tobruk for their service and sacrifice.

Lest we forget.

Darren Chester, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Minister for Defence Personnel

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