Italian artillery of medium caliber shooting the enemy stable connections in Tobruk in 1941.
The Siege of Tobruk lasted for 241 days in 1941, after Axis forces advanced through Cyrenaica from El Agheila in Operation Sonnenblume against the British Western Desert Force (WDF) in Libya, during the Western Desert Campaign (1940â1943) of the Second World War. In late 1940, the British had defeated the Italian 10th Army during Operation Compass (9 December 1940 â 9 February 1941) and trapped the remnants at Beda Fomm. German troops and Italian reinforcements reached Libya, while much of the WDF was sent to Greece and replaced by a skeleton force, short of equipment and supplies.
Operation Sonnenblume (6 February â 25 May 1941), forced the British into a retreat to the Egyptian border. A garrison was left behind at Tobruk, to deny the port to the Axis, while the WDF reorganised and prepared a counter-offensive. The Axis siege of Tobruk began on 10 April, when the port was attacked by a force under Generalleutnant Erwin Rommel and continued during three relief attempts, Operation Brevity (15â16 May), Operation Battleaxe (15â17 June) and Operation Crusader (18 November â 30 December). The occupation of Tobruk deprived the Axis of a supply port closer to the Egypt-Libya border than Benghazi, 900 kilometres (560 mi) west of the Egyptian frontier, which was within the range of RAF bombers; Tripoli was 1,500 kilometres (930 mi) to the west in Tripolitania.
The siege diverted Axis troops from the frontier and the Tobruk garrison repulsed several attacks. The port was frequently bombarded by artillery, dive-bombers and medium bombers, as the RAF flew defensive sorties from airfields far away in Egypt. British Mediterranean Fleet and Inshore Squadron ships ran the blockade, to carry reinforcements and supplies in and wounded and prisoners out. On 27 November, Tobruk was relieved by the 8th Army (the name of British, Commonwealth, Imperial and Allied forces in the Western Desert since September 1941), during Operation Crusader.
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