Wednesday, July 30, 2008

[Heraldry] Rats of Tobruk Association

Rats of Tobruk Association Crest

This is the crest of the Rats of Tobruk Association. It is a group set up by veterans of Tobruk as a means of keeping in contact and raising awareness of the actions of the men of the AIF at Tobruk.

This particular crest is scanned off a window decal that was in my Grandfather's personal items. It's old and never been used. At first I wondered why Grandad wouldn't have put the decal on the back window of his car and then I remembered that when I was young he drove a Toyota Corona. I also remember that he hated the fact that he couldn't afford to drive an Australian built car, as they were more expensive at the time. I never heard him say anything about the Germans commiting war crimes in the Middle East. He did however, never have anything nice to say about the Japanese.

Realising now just what my Grandfather faced at the hands of the Japanese forces in the jungles of New Guinea and Borneo it's no wonder that he just couldn't bring himself to put his Rats of Tobruk decal on his Toyota.

Rats of Tobruk Association window decal from the author's private collection.

[Image] 9th Division troops move From Blue to Red Line at Tobruk

Tobruk, Libya, 8th August, 1941.

9th Division troops move to relieve others in the Red Line.

This image shows unidentified troops of the Australian 9th Division moving on foot from the inner perimeter "Blue Line" to relieve others in positions in the front "Red Line" at Tobruk.

Troops coming off the front lines, where they had often been in close contact with the enemy for weeks, would fall back to take up positions in the inner defensive perimeter known as the "Blue Line". When Tobruk was originally taken from the Italians in January, 1941 by the men of the Australian 6th Division the English command wanted to set up the outer defenses in the area known as the Blue Line. Australian command argued that the outer Red Line should be the one to hold as to do so would place enemy artillery out of range of the vital supply point, Tobruk Harbour. That one decision alone could may well have changed the entire course of the war.

Had defenses been set up at the originally planned Blue Line, Rommel's artillery would have likely captured the city within days. With a deep water harbour secured Rommel could move forward with his plans to rapidly take Egypt and with it, a gateway to the rich Middle Eastern oil fields of Iraq. With unlimited supply of oil relatively close to the planned Eastern Front with Russia the whole shape of the war starts to look different.

What strikes me about this image of the Libyan desert is that fact that the landscape, if viewed through a red filter, reminds me of footage I've seen of the surface of Mars. Weird I know but those rock formations are like nothing I've seen on this planet.

image 041777 Australian War Memorial.

[Image] On leave in Palestine, 1941.

NX17811 Pvt L.J McCarthy
2/17th Battalion
Palestine, 1941.

Today a parcel from my mother arrived that contained all the photos my Grandfather took from his time in active service with the 2/17th Battalion. This one is a classic photo postcard that I've scanned. On the back in my Grandfather's handwriting is the following;

"Tell-Aviv 1941. Les McCarthy. D Coy."

What I also realised when looking through the photos was that one of them stood out like I'd seen it before. It was of a bunch of diggers skylarking at Alamein, one of them wearing a German helmet. Try as I might I just couldn't think where I'd seen it before. I was certain it wasn't on the internet, but rather in a book.

I went and made a cup of coffee and read through the names of the soldiers on the back of the photo and one name stood out.

Jack Barber.

Then it hit me. I had borrowed his book "The War, The Whores, The Afrika Korps" from my local library about 18 months ago and enjoyed it alot. What I didn't know at the time is that alot of these stories in the book concerned his mates on leave. My grandfather was one of his mates. I now have photos of my Grandfather on leave with Jack Barber.

Oh shit. I hope my mum doesn't read that book.

image from the author's personal collection.