Tobruk and the great siege. Where the Australians stood defiant against the victorious Germans led by Rommel the Legend. Headed by Ming the Merciless (General Morshead) the boys from down under withstood the best the Germans threw at them. This is the highlight of the Siege of Tobruk and is well covered here as it is in several other books.
But the siege did not end here nor did the Australians see it through to the breakout (aside from a single battalion) as politics entered the fight and the British were compelled against their and the Australians wishes to withdraw them from Tobruk to be replaced by the British 70 Division and the Polish Carpathian Brigade. This is far less covered.
Then there is the breakout and Operation Crusader when the 8th Army attempted to lift the siege. If Gazala could be called Rommel's greatest victory then Crusader must be his worst defeat. Despite the British Generals best efforts to disperse their force and hand Rommel their defeat on a silver platter Rommel never delivered the killing blow.
Quote p241: "But this supposed master of concentration was dispersing his armoured force with an abandon that would have done credit to any of Eight Army's commanders."
The 16 crucial days of Crusader make a very exciting read. It has been a long time since a history book has so captured my attention.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the author Frank Harrison was a young signals soldier all throughout the siege and his personal experience adds a very personal touch. This is not an autobiography, this is a history of the Siege but with this added insight and Harrison does well in bringing key figures to life which was his intention, without the real people this could become a board game with listings of units. Every now and then he adds how the soldiers really felt and how things were precieved from the ground level. A battle that would become a great victory was not celebrated by soldiers that wanted nothing more than live another day.
Harrison treats the subject with much respect and you almost get the feel of having been there.
Having already read and seen much about the Siege of Tobruk I must say this is the most complete history I have read and am likely to read.
on 22 July 2006
The siege of Tobruk in 1941 was the first time the British army succeeded in defeating a German army operation in World War II. Despite all the ingenuity of Erwin Rommel, the 'Desert Fox', and the bravery of his Afrika Korps, the outnumbered and outgunned British garrison held the port until a relief mission, 'Operation Battleaxe', drove back the German and Italian forces. It was during this epic siege that 'Lord Haw Haw', the German propaganda broadcaster, coined the phrase 'Desert Rats'. He intended it as an insult, but the soldiers at Tobruk took a perverse pride in the name which became the nickname of the 8th Army in general and the 7th Armoured division in particular. "
As to this "synopsis", the "the outnumbered and outgunned British garrison" was in fact NOT British it was Australian and "the 7th Armoured division in particular" was NOT the 7th Armoured Division, it was the 7th Division of the AUSTRALIAN AIF. Not British at all. Good book though.