World War Two - Tobruk (Tobruq)

Tobruk War memorial stone, Tobruk.
Memorial Stone, Tobruk.


Tobruk view over the sea

Tobruk, also known as Tubruq, Tobruch, Tubruk, or طبرق‎ , is located about 250 miles east of Benghazi city in the region of Barka (Barqa) or Cyrenaica. The city is beautifully situated along its U-shaped harbour, between the encroaching sands of the Sahara from the south and lively Mediterranean waves from the north. Tobruk was also the stage on which one of the most sieges of the 20th century was orchestrated. Just under 25,000 allied troops, including around 14,270 Australian soldiers, were surrounded by Italian and German soldiers in the longest siege in Allied military history. The Australian-dominated allied force held out for 240 days, during which 650 soldiers died and about 917 were captured. The siege came to an end around November 1941, when General Claude Auchinleck lifted the siege.

vitage torpedo from tobruk

Libya was the stage on which a number of crucial World War Two battles were exercised, the most famous of which is the Battle of Tobruk. The strategic importance of the area was contested by European forces. According to official figures about 27 WWII battles took place in Libya, causing great mayhem and destruction.

ww2 cannon from tobruk

The wars began as early as October 1935 when Italy invaded Ethiopia; leading Egypt to grant Britain the permission to bring in large forces into the country. When Germany invaded France in June 1940, Benito Mussolini joined in and declared war on Britain and France, and then managed to invade Egypt in September 1940. On September 13, 1940, Italy's Graziani moved into Egypt. Fearing a German invasion, the British were in no immediate rush to counter the Italian move. But after additional 126,000 Commonwealth troops arrived in Egypt from Britain, Australia, New Zealand and India, the Western Desert Force attacked the Italians at Sidi Barrani; eventually leading the British to push the Italian Tenth Army out of Egypt, and to finally score a major victory at Bardia, and subsequently took Tobruk. By February 1941, the Italian Tenth Army surrendered and Libyan Cyrenaica fell to the British

commonwealth cemetery in Tobruk
Commonwealth Cemetery in Tobruk


Relics of Rommel's army's military machinery and cemeteries of European soldiers continue to receive visitors from England, Germany, France, Italy and Australia. There are a number of World War Cemeteries in Tobruk, including The Commonwealth Cemetery, The English Cemetery, the French Cemetery and the German Cemetery.

French Cemetery in Tobruk.
French Cemetery in Tobruk


German Cemetery in Tobruk
German Cemetery in Tobruk


In March, the Axis forces, under the command of the German general Erwin Rommel, attacked Cyrenaica and cut off the British troops at Tobruk; only to be regained by the British Eighth Army commander general Claude Auchinleck in November. As is the nature of conflict, Rommel took Cyrenaica again, and continued to Egypt, only to be halted at al Alamein, 100 kilometres from Alexandria. In October the Eighth Army, this time under the command of general Bernard Montgomery, broke through the Axis lines at al Alamein, and the capture of Cyrenaica was completed for the second time, again in November. By mid-February, the last Axis troops were driven out of Libya. However, the Germans returned and took Tobruk on June the 2nd 1942, and Rommel was promoted to Field Marshall by Hitler. General Montgomery fought back and recaptured Tobruk on November 13, 1942.


English Cemetery in Tobruk
English Cemetery in Tobruk

The World War Two cemeteries you can visit in Tobruk include the Allied Cemetery, the French Cemetery, Knightsbridge Cemetery (near Acroma, 25 km west of Tobruk), and the German Cemetery ( located inside a castle, with the names of DAK soldiers died in the wars inscribed on its surrounding walls). The Commonwealth Cemetery is the home of many British, Australian, New Zealand, South African, Polish, Czech, Canadian, French and Greek graves. There are also some monuments, like the Australian obelisk, the Stone of Remembrance, and the Graves of the Polish SBSK (Samodzielna Brygada Strzelcow Karpackich) Brigade.

English cemetery in Tobruk
English Cemetery in Tobruk

The remains of the war machinery on display in Tobruk include the Lady Be Good, the American plane which crash-landed in the Libyan desert, cannons, tanks, a system of concrete trenches left by the Italians, and not to count how many land mines left behind, some of which still are a source of worry to the local people of Tobruk and the surrounding areas.

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ras alawda castle tobruk
Ras Alawda Castle



World War Two Cannon from Tobruk



The Fig Tree Hospital

fig tree hospital in tobruk

The Fig-Tree Hospital, Tobruk.

The Australian or the Fig Tree Hospital was used as a base to treat the wounded during the wars. The above hole is in fact an entrance to a network of caves, which were used a shelter. The name comes from the actual fig tree which still stands witness to this day, as shown in this photo. According to some reports, a cutting from the tree was taken to Australia, where it was planted at Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance. In relation to these caves and holes, the story behind the Australians adopting the phrase: "the rats of Tobruk" as a badge of honour originally came from a German propaganda that was designed to destroy Australian morale, in which Radio Berlin dismissed the Australians as the Rats of Tobruk, just as rodents burrow underground.


fig tree hospital in Tobruk



World War II Vintage Barbed Wire.

Tobruk's world war II barbed wire
A view of the barbed wire wall built during the wars.

This vintage barbed wire structure is located about three miles away from Tobruk. The road leading to the structure is a bit rocky and requires a tough car or a desert vehicle. Barbed wires extend from Almajouri Castle (south of Jaghboub oasis) all the way to the Mediterranean coast, spanning nearly 300 kilometres. The structure was originally used by Graziani to stop supplies from reaching the Libyan Freedom Fighters from neighbouring countries. The barbed wires were patrolled by both soldiers and vehicles, as well as electric current.


  • Tobruk was besieged by the Italian and German armies on the the 11th of April 1941.

  • The Knightsbridge Cemetery was built in 1942 on a site of a battle near .Acroma.

  • Acroma was an important supplies centre where a number of desert tracks met

  • Brega, Ejdabiya and Benghazi were sites of battles during the war.

  • Many Libyans are also buried in the cemeteries; they were fighting the fascists along side the British forces.


the great british field gun from tobruk


Visit our page about John Brill and his Bardia Mural.

a section showing skulls from The Bardia Mural Drawing
Skull from John Brill's Mural


a photo of the plane ladybegood from tobruk
Lady be good

For more information about the plane please visit the following dedicated website.

a screen shot of the website ladybegood dort com

A screen shot of the website ladybegood dot com. The story of  Lady Be Good.