Tobruk or Tubruq is a port city on Libya`s eastern Mediterranean coast, near the border with Egypt. Tobruk was the site of an ancient Greek colony and later a Roman fortress guarding the frontier of Cyrenaica. By 1911 Tobruk was an Italian military post. Tobruk had a deep and protected harbour and it made it an important place to supply armies in a warfare campaign. It was fortified by the Italians and was on a peninsula which made it much hard for an enemy to overcome. There were escarpments and cliffs to the south of the town which made it difficult to advance against Tobruk,”blitzkrieg” was out of the question.
The Italian Dictator Benito Mussolini dreamed of a new Roman empire and saw with envy Adolf Hitler`s advance through Europe. He decided to make the Mediterranean Italy`s ”Mare Nostrum” and one of is moves was to try concuer Egypt.
The Italian Army started its invasion 13 September 1940, and came as far as Sidi Barrani where they dug in and consolidated and not much happened after that. In early December, British forces launched an attack with the codename ”Operation Compass”. The Italians retreated to El Agheila and Tobruk was captured by British, Australian and Indian forces on 22 January 1941.Benito Mussolini was furious but had no choice, he called for help from his ”Axis” friend, Adolf Hitler who sent an army corps named ”Deutsches Afrika Korps” (DAK) under the command of Lieutenant-General Erwin Rommel. Benito Mussolini also sent many Italian divisions to strengthen the force. The Italian-German force drove the Imperial forces back to the Egyptian border. Tobruk with its garrison with the Australian 9th division (20th, 24th, 26th Brigades), 18th Brigade of the 7th Division and 4 regiments of British Artillery and some Indian troops remained and became isolated and under siege.
Commander of the garrison at Tobruk was the distinguished Lieutenant-General Leslie Morshead. General Sir Archibald Wavell instructed Morshead to hold the fortress for 8 weeks (it lasted 241 days) while the British Imperial forces reorganized and planned a counter offensive to relief Tobruk.
This is just a short summary of the events; a more detailed story is to find in numerous books on the subject. This book will in pictures tell the story about Tobruk and its defenders nicknamed ”The Rats of Tobruk”.
155.4 ✕ 234.6 mm
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