'Rats of Tobruk' Football Game

During a lull in hostilities in Palestine during World War II, a team of ‘Tobruk Rat’ veterans challenged veterans of the Greece and Crete campaigns to a game of Australian football. 

An oval was pegged out on the flinty Palestinian desert : dangerous ground, for the dirt was sowed with Turkish bullets left over from World War I. 

Two games of football were played on that hard, dangerous ‘oval’, the first won by the 2/10th Battalion by 19 points and the second by the 2/3rd Field Regiment by 14 points (three of their players had played State football for Western Australia). 

The football is signed by gunners of the 2/3rd which was one of the last Australian units evacuated from Greece. Their opponents on the football field in Palestine were diggers of the 2/10th, whose fathers and uncles of the “Fighting Tenth” were there at the commencement of the Gallipoli landings. 

Etched into the leather of the football are signatures of real heroes: SGT Doug Russell, of Darwin, was awarded the DCM for his heroism in Greece and LT Alwyn Colman was recommended for the DCM for ‘great gallantry’ in an action when German dive bombers scored a direct hit on an ammunition truck, setting off a chain reaction of explosions that killed six Australians and wrecked nine guns. 

The football was also signed by Charlie Cocks who played alongside the great Jack Oatey at Norwood. 

This relic of the great game of Aussie Rules now resides in its own display cabinet at the Army Museum of South Australia.