The North Bondi RSL Sub-Branch was founded on 22 March 1944 by some of the original members of the Rats of Tobruk. As such, we have long called our Sub-Branch Tobruk House or otherwise The Rathouse.

During World War II, in 1941 Great Britain had to withdraw most of its forces from Africa to defend Greece. This left Australian diggers with the task of defending the city of Tobruk, which was a stronghold where future attacks could be launched upon German forces.

Twice the size of Australian forces, the Germans under the leadership of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, had never before been defeated in any battle.

Australia’s forces, led by Lieutenant General Leslie Morshead, held off Rommel’s troops for approximately 250 days. Rommel charged Tobruk with tanks but Australian forces attacked the infantry leaving the tanks with no ground support. Luftwaffe performed bombing raids on Tobruk but instead of Australian diggers fighting back they hid safely in a network of underground tunnels. Thus focusing the task of defending the city against German troops.

After German forces retreated in order to regroup, Australian diggers wasted no time and went on the offensive. Diggers attacked German positions stealing artillery and then used it against the German infantry defending Tobruk.

The Australian Rats of Tobruk were clearly outnumbered but still had the courage and defended Tobruk from German troops despite the city being bombed repeatedly.

In typical Australian dry wit, the diggers gave themselves the name of “Rats of Tobruk” after Radio Berlin’s propaganda describing the Australians as “caught like rats in a trap.”

After the Rats of Tobruk came back from WW II they established the RSL Sub-Branch as Tobruk House in North Bondi with the nickname as The Rathouse. The Rathouse moved to its present location in March 1962 and before then was adjacent to it.

Images courtesy of the Australian War Memorial