80th Anniversary Siege of Tobruk Memorial Service
Representing the Minister of Defence, Mr Julian Simmonds MP; Minister Mark Furner; Assistant Minister to the Premier for Veterans Affairs, Mr Bart Mellish; representing the Commander of HMAS Moreton, Lieutenant Commander Craig Flynn; Descendants of the Rats of Tobruk Association Patron, Mr Warren Randall and all Association members; distinguished guests; ladies and gentleman.
I at once acknowledge the traditional custodians of these lands, the Turrbal and Jagera peoples, and extend respectful greetings to Elders and emerging leaders.
First and foremost, I thank the Descendants of the Rats of Tobruk Association for the invitation to be here today.
I was very honoured to address their 80th anniversary dinner last night, albeit a belated commemoration.
It was a most memorable occasion, and a welcomed opportunity to strengthen the bonds between the friends and families of all descendants of this remarkable chapter of Australian history.
The 80th Anniversary of the Siege of Tobruk is a significant milestone and I commend the Association for its continuing efforts to ensure that the legend of the “Rats of Tobruk” endures for future generations.
Indeed, in 2022, we are blessed on this milestone to still be able to acknowledge some of the living veterans of the Siege.
I believe there are less than 10 living Rats of Tobruk, out of the 14,000 who served at this crucial moment in our nation’s history.
We are very fortunate to have in our presence Mrs Patricia Wallace, a widow of one of these brave men. I take this opportunity now, on behalf of the people of Queensland, to thank your husband and his contemporaries for their service.
Beyond this year’s milestone, I was enlivened to learn that an enduring legacy of the efforts during the Siege will be the ‘No Surrender’ Rose.
This beautiful red and yellow rose has been planted around Australia.
The rose will itself serve as a constant reminder of the determination, bravery and humour that became a source of inspiration during some of the Second World War’s darkest days.
I hope it will also echo the resilience of the servicemen who sustained themselves and their comrades in the harshest of conditions.
The Rats of Tobruk were able to survive and successfully operate from dugout constructions, and the caves and crevasses of the foreign, unfamiliar terrain of modern-day Libya.
They withstood tank attacks, artillery barrages and relentless air attacks.
They endured the desert’s searing hot days and bitter cold nights, always at the mercy of the environment and the threat of enemy forces.
They did not surrender; they did not retreat.
By gathering here today, we are paying tribute to their bravery and sacrifice.
Lest We Forget.