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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Canberrans honouring the Rats of Tobruk

A global pandemic won’t stop Canberra’s descendants and veterans from honouring one of the most significant battles of WWII, in the leadup to its 80-year anniversary.

A rose planting ceremony to honour The Siege of Tobruk took place in Edison Park at Woden on Thursday, after being postponed from 10 April due to COVID-19.

Conducted by the Woden RSL Sub-branch in conjunction with the Descendants of the Rats of Tobruk Association, member Vicki Munday said the planting was set in the leadup to next year’s anniversary event.

“The plan was to plant the roses on 10 April through the associations all around the country, which is the day they called the Tobruk Sunday,” she said.

“We have held off planting the roses, but we knew it needed to happen. The plan was for them to be flowering next year for the 80th anniversary event that will be held in Brisbane.”

The group planted four roses in the spot, which were among the 2,000 ‘No Surrender’ variety created by Treloar Roses for the occasion.

Ms Munday, who is a Rats of Tobruk descendant, said the rose planting aimed to honour those who were involved in the siege, while educating generations to come about the events.  

“I think the idea was Edison Park would be somewhere that was fairly central to any descendants or those who have those memories that they want to pay tribute to,” she said.

“I think it’s about helping the next generation to understand the background and what was involved with the siege. It’s the same with the lot of our war history that has been lost over time and, in this case, it’s families and relatives who are keeping it alive.”

One veteran of the siege is located in Canberra and was in attendance at the planting ceremony.  

Rats of Tobruk Association members Vicki and Frank Munday assisting 96-year-old local
Rat of Tobruk, Derek Holyoake (centre).

“He is 96 years old and remembers everything; it’s amazing,” Ms Munday said. “Knees are a little wobbly, but his memory is amazing.”

The association are planning to hold a world anniversary event in Brisbane during April next year, COVID-19 permitting.

Ms Munday urged anyone who is interested or thinks they may be a descendant to reach out to the association.

“I joined to get involved with other people and find more information and exchange photos. Otherwise you do not know what they did, you don’t talk to your relatives about those things when you’re young,” she said.

“If anybody has any questions or want help finding a family member, they can contact us by email or on Facebook and we would love them to join our association anyway.”

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