23rd January 1941 TOBRUK – MORE ITALIAN PRISONERS TAKEN AFTER THE ADVANCE INTO TOBRUK. (NEGATIVE BY F. HURLEY).
One of the incoming force’s greatest embarrassments was the number of prisoners. More than 20,000 of them were soon herded into a fenced enclosure measuring about 800 yards by 400 yards which the Italians had erected near the junction of the El Adem and Bardia roads to house their own prisoners. Here during more than six weeks never fewer than 7,000 and sometimes 20,000 prisoners were crowded like sheep in a dusty pen. Many of the men lacked blankets, and the nights were bitterly cold.
To give them adequate medical care was far beyond the resources of their captors. There was no sanitation; and, at first, it took one of the two infantry companies posted at the cage seven hours to distribute the day’s rations: one tin of veal, two biscuits and a bottle of water to each man, though few prisoners had even a bottle to receive their water in.
From the 23rd to the 26th the 2/7the Battalion was on guard and strove unceasingly to feed and water the prisoners. The 2/2nd Battalion which relieved the 2/7th reduced the time spent feeding the prisoners to five hours by installing water tubs and employing Italian N.C.O.s to organise the lines.
Eventually the guards from this battalion made sure that every prisoner had at elast a greatcoat or blanket and his own water bottle… Gradually the numbers were reduced by sending them eastwards to Egypt in empty trucks that had come forward carrying supplies and after the harbour was opened 1,500 to 2,000 were shipped away every second or third day. By the middle of February the number of prisoners had been reduced to about 10,000 and by the end of the month to 7,000, but on 28th February convoys, each containing 800 to 1,000 prisoners began to arrive from Benghazi and, in a few days the cage contained 11,000. The Tobruk cage was finally emptied in March.
From AUSTRALIA IN THE WAR OF 1939-1945 Series One Army, Volume 1 To Benghazi by Gavin Long. Chapter 9 Capture of Tobruk
NEAR TOBRUK – A CROSS SECTION OF MUSSOLINI’S MIGHTY ARMY. (NEGATIVE BY F. HURLEY).
Click on the link below to see more photos taken by Frank Hurley and further information about the Tobruk Prisoner of War Cage.