British and Commonwealth Forces were surrounded in the Libyan Port of Tobruk by the German Afrika Corps from 9 April to 13 December 1941 the longest siege in the history of British and Commonwealth forceS land.on At the beginning of the siege the Garrison with a perimeter of some 30 miles was manned by approximately 15000 Australian and 180000 British and Indian troops. The Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy brought supplies food fuel and ammunition into the Garrison and evacuated the wounded. The Desert Air Force maintained a small force of Hurricanes and Lysanders. The Garrison resisted all attempts by units of the German Afrika Corps under Rommel to break the siege. The first major attempt on Easter Monday 14 April was the first defeat of German forces landon in World War ll. During the siege some 5000 troops of the Polish Brigade joined the Garrison also present were 4 members of the Royal Canadian Navy. A British Nursing Sister served aboard a Hospital Ship in Tobruk Harbour. After several months the gallant Australian 9th Division was relieved by the British 70th Division but the 2I13th Battalion of the Australian 20th Brigade was unable to be evacuated owing to enemy action and this Battalion together with various British Units, had the distinction of baving served throughout the whole 8 months of the siege. Broadcasting from Berlin "Lord Haw-Haw" described the men of the Garrison as "RATS OF TOBRUK" and this inspired an Australian Sergeant to produce a painted sign "Rats of Tobruk" when the War was over and in 1947 a RATS OF TOBRUK ASSOCIATION was formed with Headquarters in Australia. Soon branches sprung up throughout the Continent and a Tobruk plaque was designed bearing the words "NO SURRENDER". In April 1972 a handful of UK men veterans of the siege met in the bar of a Royal Navy Unit in Kensington. During the evening the London Area Branch was formed and in the 19 years since its membership bas flourished considerably to its present level of 700.-17-approximately
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