WWII VET HITS CENTURY
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.