"Tobruk - Rommel and the Rats" Baladiyat al Jabal al Akhdar Things to Do Tip by TheWanderingCamel
Baladiyat al Jabal al Akhdar Things to Do: 19 reviews and 91 photos
Standing on the cliffs overlooking the deserted bay pictured here and up into the equally peaceful wadi running down to the sea, it's hard to imagine this area was the theatre for of some of the fiercest fighting in WW2 and the scene of a bitter siege that lasted 240 days. Having advanced relentlessly across North Africa, Rommel's Afrika Korps seemed invincible as they swept into the eastern seaport of Tobruk and they fully expected the Allied troops trapped there to crumble before their onslaught and constant air raids. Instead of surrendering, the Allies - Australian, British, Polish, Czech, Indian, Canadian, South African and New Zealanders, dug themselves into a line of trenches and tunnels encircling the town and, for the next eight months waged a war that brought the enemy to a state of complete exhaustion and the first major Axis defeat of the war.
A rag-tag fleet of British and Australian ships, jokingly referred to as the Tobruk Ferry Service and the Scrap Iron Flotilla, ran the gauntlet of German guns to land supplies and reinforcements and to evacuate the wounded.
German propaganda saw the men tagged as rats hiding in holes, caught in a trap and desperate but the men took the name as a badge of honour and thus the legend of the Rats of Tobruk was born.
Little remains to tell of those extraordinary times. No signs point to the trenches that remain outside the town and you need to watch your step as you walk over the headlands so that you don't stumble into one of the sunken tunnel entrances or gun emplacements. A roughly laid concrete block wall surrounds the cave that served as an Australian field hospital - the ancient fig tree that shaded and protected its opening was just coming in to leaf when we were there. In the centre of Tobruk, Rommel's bunker is locked and no-one knows when the man with the key will be back in town. The ironically-named Knightsbridge battlefield, 40km away in the desert, is a desolate place littered with a few last scraps of blackened field armor and rusted barbed wire. Back at home, the last of the Rats are old men now but their deeds are not forgotten
And then there are the cemeteries ....
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