Editor's note:Radio broadcaster, journalist and war historian Chester Wilmot (1911-54) spent months with Allied forces trapped in Tobruk, Libya, during Rommel's siege of the city. His record of the campaign is as much a study in sociology as war reportage.
From chapter XIII: pp. 168-176, 180-222
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'From the cliffs of Gallipoli, through the jungles of Vietnam, to the deserts of Afghanistan and Iraq, Australia's short history is a story of war.
'The battlefield has shaped the way we define ourselves - the Australian values of mateship, courage under fire, larrikinism - but few of us have witnessed these scenes firsthand. Soldiers writing from the front and journalists on the ground have formed the way we think about war and so formed the way we think about ourselves.
'In The Penguin Book of Australian War Writing, author and journalist Mark Dapin has gathered together the finest of these accounts. Starting with Watkin Tench's observations of an Aboriginal war party, we see the terror, confusion and occasional heroics of the front line through the eyes of some of our best writers, including AB Paterson, Martin Boyd, Patrick White, Alan Moorehead, Kenneth Slessor, Peter Cundall and Barry Heard.
'These remarkable letters, diaries, memoirs and reports remind us of our history, and of our responsibility in recording and remembering what happens in the wars we send our soldiers to fight. (From the publisher's website.)
'In early 1941 Australian soldiers stormed Italy’s stronghold on the Libyan coast and took control of the port city of Tobruk. Heavily outnumbered, yet resourceful and defiant, the Australians then defended the garrison against sustained attack by German forces. For five months the ‘Rats of Tobruk’ held on, dealing a major blow to the Axis powers’ North African campaign. Tobruk 1941 is the pioneering ABC reporter Chester Wilmot’s on-the-ground account of the siege, a landmark work of war writing.' (Publication summary)