Tobruk is captured

The old Italian Cruiser San Giorgio had been used as a flak ship in Tobruk harbour. She had been damaged by RAF bombers but her guns continued to defend against the tank attack, before she was finally scuttled on the 22nd.

The small Libyan port of Tobruk was now just another point on the map, marking the advance of the mainly Australian forces that were leading British counter attack into Italian occupied Libya. Nobody yet knew the significance it would later achieve.

The final surrender of Italian forces in Tobruk came on the 22nd, witnessed by the journalist Alan Moorehead:

The surrender was accepted in the town by an Australian Brigadier.

The Italian admiral commanding and his staff, all shaven and immaculate in white, and a group of four haggard generals, received him. It had been a bitter engagement. The dead were still lying out, and the wounded were everywhere. It was no time for mincing words. ‘You have landmines laid in and around the town,’ the Australian said. ‘I will take reprisals for the life of every one of my men lost on those mines.’ Quickly the Italians led Australian sappers to the mines and they were torn up. Booby traps were revealed, storage dumps opened, some two hundred guns handed over.

More than fifteen thousand prisoners were gathered in for the long journey, some by sea, some by land, back to Alexandria. We had now in all some hundred thousand prisoners, but Bergonzoli had got away again. Twenty per cent of the prisoners were found to be suffering from some form of chronic dysentery.

Sickness, death and wounding enveloped Tobruk. Inside the town fires blazed. Shops, homes, offices, were torn up and their furniture and house- hold goods strewn across the roads. Walking through it, I felt suddenly sickened at the destruction and the uselessness and the waste. At this moment of success I found only an unreasoning sense of futility.

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Earlier in the war:

Later in the war: