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The E-Sylum: Volume 15, Number 46, November 4, 2012, Article 25

THE TRIANGULAR RATS OF TOBRUK MEDAL

Web site visitor Tom Osborn submitted the following information about another type of Rats of Tobruk medal. His note is below. Thanks! -Editor

I've just stumbled across this website as I was doing some informal research on Rats of Tobruk medals, which led me to these E-Sylum articles:
MORE ON THE RATS OF TOBRUK MEDAL (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v14n16a13.html)
ANOTHER RATS OF TOBRUK MEDAL (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v14n24a15.html)

Pioneers Rats of Tobruk medal After a quick look it seems you haven't yet heard about a completely different shaped Rats of Tobruk medal. A very small number (thought to be 12) of these were hand-made by 5 Platoon of the 2/1st Australian Pioneer Battalion, who were also part of the siege of Tobruk. They are described in a book about the Pioneers (edited by my father) as follows:

The “ribbon” was of brass with a half inch wide central stripe of copper, sweated on and made from the driving band of a shell. Suspended from this “ribbon”, by a brass ring, was a medal made to represent our triangular battalion colour patch. The grey background was represented by brass, the next triangle of white represented by aluminium, and surmounted by a third triangle of copper, representing the purple centre piece of the patch. Over the centre of the patch is mounted what represents a “rat rampant”. This is cut from brass. On the “ribbon” and “medal” there appear the words “presented by Lord Haw Haw to the Tobruk Rats, 1941.

I'm attaching a couple of photos of my father's medal and part of the book cover so you can see the "triangular battalion colour patch" referred to. As you'll see the hand-making is quite evident and I actually like this contrast to the more "mass produced" round Rats of Tobruk medal which is discussed in The E-Sylum articles. It fits the "first in & use whatever you've got to get things working" nature of the Pioneers. My dad grew up in the country and self-reliance / making-do was a necessary part of their life. So for him (and I suspect many others like him) The Pioneers was a natural extension of that sort of attitude.

Pioneers Rats of Tobruk medal - detail 2-1st Pioneer colour patch

Note also that The Pioneers' medal goes one step further (than the round Rats of Tobruk medal) in responding to Lord Haw-Haw's taunts and turning his expression into a badge of honour. The Pioneers' medal includes a simulated ribbon which acknowledges the source of the Rats of Tobruk description that they accepted with great pride.

"The Pioneers" book also mentions that one of these mementos was presented by Lt. Col. Arnold Brown (Commander, 2/1 Aust. Pioneer Battalion) to Brig. R. W. Tovell (Commander, 26 Aust. Infantry Brigade). In his accompanying note Lt. Col. Brown describes the medal as follows: "It is made in the unit colours, by men of the unit, from an Italian shell case, German tank and German dive bomber JU 87".

Incidentally there's nothing in "The Pioneers" book to indicate if they knew of the round Rats of Tobruk medal you have discussed previously. Both use metal from enemy sources. One group might have got the idea from the other or they could have independently thought to respond to Lord Haw-Haw's attempts to demoralise them in this way.

Two of the triangular unofficial medals are in the Army Museum at Victoria Barracks, Paddington (Sydney) and one is in the Australian War Memorial, Canberra. Note that on the AWM medal (see link below) the rat is facing in the opposite direction to the rat on my father's medal: cas.awm.gov.au/item/REL42329

This is great information. This has been an interesting and long-running topic. -Editor


Wayne Homren, Editor

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