Siege of Tobruk

        As the Commonwealth forces retreated back from Rommel's attack, the decision was made to garrison Tobruk with a strong force instead of abandoning it.  This force was initially anchored by the 9th Australian Infantry division with a handful of other units.  They were surrounded by Axis forces by the middle of May and were under a state of siege.  They were supplied by sea by the Royal Navy and were under frequent air attack by the Axis forces.  The first probe against their defenses occurred on April 11 as the Germans threw some of their forward elements at the port in hopes of taking it before the British could get organized.  That probe and the follow-up attack on April 14 both failed.  They were followed by an Italian attack on April 16 by parts of the Ariete and Trento divisions.  This attack was again defeated by mines, artillery and the stubborn Australians. Rommel then ordered an even larger attack involving parts of four divisions against a different part of the defense on April 30.  This attack captured a portion of the outer defenses but stalled and was eventually abandoned.  The siege then became a kind of stalemate, resembling WWI trench warfare.  The Auzzies had excelled at that kind of warfare in the last war and continued to do so, raiding the Axis lines at will and causing many problems for the attackers.  The Axis forces did not make any more serious attempts to take Tobruk in 1941, instead settling for air attacks on the port, along with raids by both the Germans and Italians.


Tobruk Garrison


First German Attacks April 11 and 14

Axis Attack April 30