ANZAC | Siege of Tobruk
This group of cleaners were given a view of the Grand Canyon like no other, as they dangled
The siege of Tobruk lasted for 241 days in 1941, after Axis forces advanced through Cyrenaica from El Agheila in Operation Sonnenblume against Allied forces in Libya, during the Western Desert Campaign (1940–1943) of the Second World War. In late 1940, the Allies had defeated the Italian 10th Army during Operation Compass (9 December 1940 – 9 February 1941) and trapped the remnants at Beda Fomm. During early 1941, much of the Western Desert Force (WDF) was sent to the Greek and Syrian campaigns. As German troops and Italian reinforcements reached Libya, only a skeleton Allied force remained, short of equipment and supplies.
Operation Sonnenblume (6 February – 25 May 1941), forced the Allies into a retreat to the Egyptian border. A garrison, consisting mostly of the 9th Australian Division (Lieutenant-General Leslie Morshead) remained at Tobruk, to deny the port to the Axis, while the WDF reorganised and prepared a counter-offensive. The Axis siege of Tobruk began on 10 April, when the port was attacked by a force under Generalleutnant Erwin Rommel and continued during three relief attempts, Operation Brevity (15–16 May), Operation Battleaxe (15–17 June) and Operation Crusader (18 November – 30 December). The occupation of Tobruk deprived the Axis of a supply port closer to the Egypt–Libya border than Benghazi, 560 mi (900 km) west of the Egyptian frontier, which was within the range of RAF bombers; Tripoli was 930 mi (1,500 km) to the west in Tripolitania.
The siege diverted Axis troops from the frontier and the Tobruk garrison repulsed several Axis attacks. The port was frequently bombarded by artillery, dive-bombers and medium bombers, as the RAF flew defensive sorties from airfields far away in Egypt. Allied naval forces, such as the British Mediterranean Fleet (including the Inshore Squadron) ran the blockade, carrying reinforcements and supplies in and wounded and prisoners out. On 27 November, Tobruk was relieved by the Eighth Army (which controlled British and other Allied ground forces in the Western Desert from September 1941) in Operation Crusader.