The Rats of Tobruk 80th Anniversary Exhibition is now on display at Coffs Central

Roslyn and Philip Hannaford at the exhibition with the tribute to their father Arn. Photo David Tune.


ON Tuesday April 13 Coffs Central opened The Rats of Tobruk 80th Anniversary Exhibition on level one of the centre.

The exhibition is a pictorial history presentation created by the Rats of Tobruk Association and commemorates the start of the siege, one of the longest in British military history, on the tenth of April 1941.

The garrison at Tobruk included more than 14,000 Australian troops, and the siege lasted for a total of 242 days and was the first time German General Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Corps failed in the field.

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The name ‘Rats of Tobruk’ came about as a result of Nazi radio propaganda broadcasts labelling the troops contemptuously as ‘rats’.

The troops of the garrison adopted and revelled in the nickname and it has become significant in Australian military history.

The exhibition includes photographs and information about Coffs Coast locals who fought in the campaign, and some descendants of those soldiers were present at the opening of the exhibition, as well as Association committee member Stuart Toliday, who read from his father Sergeant Bill Toliday’s memoir about his experiences at Tobruk.

Siblings Roslyn and Philip Hannaford were present to remember the service of their father Arn (Arnold) who served at Tobruk and New Guinea and went on to serve as Coffs Harbour Shire Council President after the war.

Philip said, “We are touched by the significance of this exhibition and we are forever grateful to our Dad for his service and example.

“It was because of his war service that I joined Cadets here in Coffs Harbour and then went on to serve six years in the Navy.”


By David TUNE

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