Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - Front Page -

Pic­ture: Mar­cus Whisson IT is quite ap­pro­pri­ate that as Australia com­mem­o­rates the cen­te­nary of the Gal­lipoli land­ings, Colin Thomas also turns 100.

The Rat of To­bruk was one of 14,000 Al­lied sol­diers who with­stood the five­month Ger­man and Ital­ian bom­bard­ment of the Libyan City be­tween April and Au­gust, 1941.

Forced to dig into the North African city, the Al­lied troops were likened to rats by Ger­man pro­pa­gan­dist Wil­liam Joyce, a name they proudly adopted.

The Como res­i­dent of 50 years was one of the last to reach To­bruk by road ahead of the attack and said he and oth­ers emerged dif­fer­ently months later.

“We had so many air raids in five months. The bombs got bloody close some­times, you couldn’t take your mind off it. When they’re burst­ing around you, you just con­cen­trate on stay­ing alive,” he said.

“You’ve got to un­der­stand we went up as rook­ies; very few of us had been through any­thing like that be­fore.”

He said that although war pro­duced ca­ma­raderie, he was ap­pre­hen­sive to make friends.

“You had a few mates around but you weren’t game to have a good mate all the time be­cause he could dis­ap­pear,” he said.

“The world didn’t mat­ter to us, the only thing that mat­tered to us was stay­ing alive.”

He also lost his cousin dur­ing the five-month or­deal and has an in­trin­si­cally Aus­tralian out­look on war and the lessons it pro­vided him and oth­ers.

“Hu­man na­ture al­lows you to for­get things very eas­ily, but the war will al­ways re­main in the back­ground of your thoughts,” he said.


World War II vet­eran and Como res­i­dent Colin Thomas.

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