Australian troops occupy a front line position at Tobruk
The Siege of Tobruk lasted for 241 days in 1941, after Axis forces advanced through Cyrenaica from El Agheila in Operation Sonnenblume against the British Western Desert Force (WDF) in Libya, during theWestern Desert Campaign (1940–1943) of the Second World War. In late 1940, the Australians had defeated the Italian 10th Army during Operation Compass (9 December 1940 – 9 February 1941) and trapped the remnants at Beda Fomm. German troops and Italian reinforcements reached Libya, while much of the WDF was sent to Greece and replaced by a skeleton force, short of equipment and supplies.
Operation Sonnenblume (6 February – 25 May 1941), forced the British into a retreat to the Egyptian border. A garrison of mainly Australians was left behind at Tobruk, to deny the port to the Axis, while the WDF reorganised and prepared a counter-offensive. The Axis siege of Tobruk began on 10 April, when the port was attacked by a force under Generalleutnant Erwin Rommel and continued during three relief attempts, Operation Brevity(15–16 May), Operation Battleaxe (15–17 June) and Operation Crusader (18 November – 30 December). The occupation of Tobruk deprived the Axis of a supply port closer to the Egypt-Libya border than Benghazi, 1,400 km west of the Egyptian frontier, which was within the range of RAF bombers; Tripoli was 1,500 kilometres (930 mi) to the west in Tripolitania.
The siege diverted Axis troops from the frontier and the Tobruk garrison repulsed several attacks. The port was frequently bombarded by artillery, dive-bombers and medium bombers, as the RAF and RAAF flew defensive sorties from airfields far away in Egypt. British Mediterranean Fleet and Inshore Squadron ships ran the blockade, to carry reinforcements and supplies in and wounded and prisoners out. On 27 November, Tobruk was relieved by the 8th Army (the name of British, Commonwealth, Imperial and Allied forces in the Western Desert since September 1941), during Operation Crusader.
The Rats of Tobruk
The Rats of Tobruk was the name given to the soldiers of the garrison who held the Libyan port of Tobruk against the Afrika Corps, during the Siege of Tobruk in World War II.
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”.
Every part of this build was done from deep research into the siege of Tobruk. So every model built was part of the siege. I tried to copy the landscape as best I could, and incorporate tank traps, made by the diggers out of old railway tracks, barbed wire and sand bags. Oil drums, tools and packs were also common items.
Included – the P=40 with Australian RAAF markings, a Universal (Bren Gun) Carrier, two diggers in slouch hats and assorted outpost equipment.
The Universal Carrier, also known as the Bren Gun Carrier from the light machine gun armament, is a common name describing a family of light armoured tracked vehicles built by Vickers-Armstrong and other companies.
The first carriers – the Bren Carrier and the Scout Carrier with specific roles – entered service before the war, but a single improved design that could replace these, the Universal, was introduced in 1940.
The vehicle was used widely by British Commonwealth forces during the Second World War. Universal Carriers were usually used for transporting personnel and equipment, mostly support weapons, or as machine gun platforms. With some 113,000 built by 1960 in the United Kingdom and abroad, it is the most produced armoured fighting vehicle in history.
Included – the Messerschmitt BF-109F-4 TROP with markings of Hans-Joachim Marseille, along with his personal Volkswagen Kübelwagen Type 82. He reached the zenith of his fighter pilot career on 1 September 1942, when during the course of three combat sorties he claimed 17 enemy fighters shot down, earning him the Ritterkreuz mit Eichenlaub, Schwertern und Brillanten (Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds). Only 29 days later, Marseille was killed in a flying accident, when he was forced to abandon his fighter due to engine failure. After he exited the smoke-filled cockpit, Marseille’s chest struck the vertical stabiliser of his aircraft. The blow either killed him instantly or incapacitated him so that he was unable to open his parachute.
Also included is the 8ton Sd.Kfz.7 KMm.11 gun tractor, with the deadly 88mm Flak Gun. The 88 was the most feared weapon during the siege. Its original use was as an anti-aircraft flak gun, but during the African campaign, a German gun battery was being overrun by British tanks. So they loaded armour piercing shells, lowered the barrel, and the rest is history. The 88 could take out, with one shot, ANY Allied armored vehicle up to a range of 2000 meters. The Allies had no defence, and no equal weapon. It was the one thing that scared the bejesus out of tank crews. Because it could be fired from so far away, you didn’t hear anything until you were blown up. Spooky! Eventually, the Germans incorporated the deadly 88mm gun into their Tiger tank, making that the most feared and deadly tank of World War II, but like most of their super weapons, it was too little, too late.
In the diorama is Generalfeldmarschall (Field Marshal) Erwin Rommel (15 November 1891 – 14 October 1944), popularly known as the Desert Fox. Here is talking with his Battery Commanders about gun placements. Around the fire base we can see the usual items including a tent. In front of the gun emplacement is Rommel’s personal transport, the Sd.Kfz.250-3 (German: Sonderkraftfahrzeug 250; ‘special motor vehicle’) half track known as “Grief”, which is German for Griffin.