Tobruk: The lifting of the siege, 75 years ago

HMAS Waterhen in Sydney Harbour, c1925–33. ANMM Collection 00021576.

HMAS Waterhen in Sydney Harbour, c1925–33. ANMM Collection 00021576.

The 9th of December 2016 is the 75th anniversary of the lifting of the siege of Tobruk, the port on the north coast of Libya that proved such a thorn in the side of German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel during the eight months that the siege lasted. The Australian War Memorial describes it as one of the longest sieges in British military history.

Whenever the siege of Tobruk is remembered, the Australian soldiers, who formed the greater part of the garrison for most of the time, are quite rightly afforded pride of place.

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Drat that bat

The bat is back!

Confused? So were a lot of people years ago in several cases of mistaken identity between two naval icons.

Rumour has it that HMAS Vendetta, a sister Daring class destroyer, once tried to pass herself off as Vampire but diligent stokers on another ship spotted Vampire‘s distinguishing feature – the bat.

In a separate case in 1971, The Royal Australian Navy News illustrated a story about Vendetta with an image of Vampire in action instead. Again, the Vampire bat is clearly visible:

Navy News article 'Vendetta bows to a Greenie'

The bat is clearly visible on 'Vendetta' (click on image to enlarge)

The mistake didn’t go unnoticed.

Here’s the apologetic article as it originally appeared in the next issue in September 17, 1971:

Navy News article 'Drat that Bat'

Drat that bat! (click on the image to enlarge)

Over time, the iconic bat mysteriously went missing. After serving in the Navy from 1959 to 1986, Vampire eventually came to live at the National Maritime Museum.

It’s 2010, and after a lot of searching by the Fleet Team, the bat is back! It’s been located and placed back where it belongs – on the AFT funnel.

The bat is back!

The bat is back!

Thanks to Todd, Christine, Vince, Trevor, Peter and Noel for their hard work.

HMAS Vampire will return to the ANMM on July 15 after an extensive underwater hull survey, restoration works and repairs to key elements of the ship by our Fleet team.