In 1941, Australian and Allied forces sought to defend Egypt and the Suez Canal from the German and Italian Axis forces. To achieve this, it was vital that the Allies hold the fortified port of Tobruk on the Libyan coast. Not only would this delay the Axis’ advance, but would also force their troops to carry the many supplies overland across 1500 kilometres of desert.
British and Commonwealth forces successfully captured the Tobruk fortress and held it against besieging Axis troops for eight months. With the Allies’ extensive network of trenches and underground tunnels, Nazi propagandist William Joyce tried to discredit them by labelling them as the ‘Rats of Tobruk.’ This nickname was reclaimed by the defending soldiers who wore the name with pride.
From 1 March 1941 until 15 December 1941, a total of 832 Australians made the ultimate sacrifice, 2177 were wounded and 941 taken as prisoners of war.
Their efforts are forever remembered as a vital part of this strategic victory.
This coin pays tribute to the bravery of the 'Rats of Tobruk'.