Naval Command Surrenders Tobruk

Click to watch images of Tobruk: British Pathe film footage

On 22nd January 1941, Tobruk capitulated to the Allies.

22nd January 1941 AN AERIAL VIEW OF TOBRUK, AFTER THE ITALIAN GARRISON HAD SURRENDERED. SHOWN, BLACK SMOKE ROLLING FROM BURNING OIL TANKS BEYOND WHICH, IN THE HARBOUR, THE ITALIAN CRUISER SAN GIORGIO IS ON FIRE.

General Enrico Pitassi Manella: Commander of Tobruk; General Umberto Barberis: Commander of Easter Section; General Vincenzo della Mura: Commander of Western Sector and General Adolfo de Leone: Chief of Staff XXII Corps surrendered in the field.

Commander of the Navy at Tobruk Garrison, Rear Admiral Massimillian Vietina surrendered his 1500 strong naval contingent to General Robertson and Lieutenant Hennessy. Through an interpreter, Vietina was asked where the Commander of the Army at the Tobruk Garrison was. It was reported  ‘the military commander of Toburk fortress had escaped by schooner.’

The town of Tobruk and naval headquarters was surrendered by Vietina.

22nd January 1941 View across the harbour of the town. Note the clouds of smoke from the bombed oil tankers and the cruiser San Giorgio. Members of 2/2nd Battalion camped later just past the area of bombardment. `B’ Company guarded the wharf with the crane and were bombed every night and morning. The Hotel Tobruk can be seen on the left.

22nd January 1941 A motor cyclist rides along the exit road of the wharf area beside the harbour where members of 2/2nd Battalion were stationed. Note the remains of the destroyed jetties and sunken Italian shipping in the background.

Below Navy Headquarters was a complex of deep underground shelters and passageways which had been concreted and fitted with electricity. Stairs descended about 60 – 70 feet underground.

About 500 marines appeared from these mazes of corridors and spilled out into the courtyard.

31st January 1941 TOBRUK – FOUR NAVAL RATINGS FROM THE ITALIAN SHIP SAN GIORGIO, CAPTURED DURING THE ACTION. (Photographer: James Francis Hurley)

The township of Tobruk was said to be a pleasant place of white brick and plaster buildings with services to accommodate a garrison of 10,000 or more men. After the surrender of Tobruk, the church was said to be the only building to escape major damage.  The church can be seen in the photo below.

23rd January 1941 TOBRUK – VIEW FROM THE VERANDAH OF A HOUSE IN TOBRUK SHOWING THE CHURCH – THE ONLY UNDAMAGED BUILDING IN THE TOWN AFTER THE BRITISH ATTACK. (NEGATIVE BY F. HURLEY).

23rd January 1941 TOBRUK – AUSTRALIANS TEAR DOWN THE ITALIAN FLAG AFTER THEY HAVE PENETRATED THE ITALIAN DEFENCES AND ENTERED THE TOWN. Notice the fasces: symbols of fascism adorning the columns. (NEGATIVE BY F. HURLEY).

The harbour had been damaged, but the Allied forces had it in running order within three days. One jetty was largely undamaged, and the flotilla of schooners, pontoons and launches were also in good order.

23rd January 1941 TOBRUK – ITALIAN MERCHANT SHIPS CAUGHT IN TOBRUK HARBOUR. (NEGATIVE BY F. HURLEY).

TOBRUK – ITALIAN AIRCRAFT FLEW OVER THE ITALIAN CAMPS & DROPPED LEAFLETS EXHORTING THE BESIEGED TROOPS TO HANG ON FOR THE ASSISTANCE THAT WAS SURELY COMING. HERE AN ITALIAN OFFICER TRANSLATES THE LEAFLET FOR ALLEN ANDERSON OF THE PHOTOGRAPHIC UNIT. (NEGATIVE BY F. HURLEY).

The Merchant ships Marco Polo and Liguria had been rendered worthless.

23rd January 1941 Tobruk Harbour, Libya. The Italian Merchant vessel Marco scuppered before the Italians surrounded the town. (Photographer: Frank Hurley)

5th September 1941 Two of the wrecks in Tobruk Harbour. The larger vessel is the Italian troopship “Liguria” and the smaller is the “Bankura” a Navy Army Air Force Institute (NAAFI) supply ship. (Photographer: Thomas Fisher)

The old cruiser, San Giorgio was seaworthy and had been used since June 1940 to supplement the anti-aircraft defences of Tobruk claiming 47 enemy aircraft. In January 1941 the San Giorgio was used as off-shore artillery with its guns pounding the Tobruk attackers.  At 4.15 am on the 22nd January 1941, the San Giorgio was scuttled by her captain Stefano Pugliese.

c. 22nd January 1941 The Italian Coast Defence Ship (former armoured cruiser), San Giorgio, scuttled and burning after attacks by Naval Aircraft and RAF bombers at Tobruk, June – January 1941. Note the anti-torpedo nets around the wreck.

Inspection of the San Giorgio’s torpedo nets after the fall of Tobruk, revealed that as many as 39 torpedoes had become stuck in the nets during her service in Tobruk.

Another ship in Tobruk harbour was RN Alberga/Albernga. Both Francesco Riva from Galbiate Como and Renzo Menicucci from Livorno served on this boat. Possibly the ship’s name has been misspelt. [There were light cruisers in service: Alberico de Barbiano and Alberto Da Giussano.]

January 1941 Italian prisoners of war (POWs) are marched along the harbour wharf prior to embarkation on the ship in the foreground. Note the destroyed Italian ships in the background. The view is as seen looking up towards the cage where the prisoners of war were housed. (Original housed in AWM Archive Store)

23rd January 1941 TOBRUK – HIGH OFFICERS OF THE ITALIAN NAVY & ARMY LED THEIR MEN OUT OF TOBRUK TO SURRENDER TO BRITISH FORCES. ALTHOUGH WITHOUT GUARDS, THIS COLUMN OF PRISONERS MARCHED WITH PERFECT DISCIPLINE TO THE PRISONERS CAMP WHERE THEY WERE HANDED OVER BY THEIR OWN OFFICERS. (NEGATIVE BY F. HURLEY).

2 thoughts on “Naval Command Surrenders Tobruk

  1. Pingback: Naval Command Surrenders Tobruk — Footprints of Italian Prisoners of War in Australia | Ups Downs Family History

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