'Rats of Tobruk' Football Game

During a lull in hostilities in Palestine during World War II, a team of ‘Tobruk Rat’ veterans challenged hard bitten 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 by 19 points and the second by the 2/3rd by 14 points (three of their players had played State football for Western Australia). 

The football is signed by gunners of the 2/3rd Field Regiment which was one of the last Australian units evacuated from Greece.  Their opponents on the football field in Julis, Palestine were hardened Diggers of the 2/10th AIF Battalion, whose fathers and uncles of the “Fighting Tenth” were at the spearpoint of the Gallipoli landings. 

Etched into the leather of the football are signatures of real heroes: Sgt Doug Russell of Darwin, was awarded the DMC for his heroism in Greece and Lt Alwyn Colman was recommended for the DMC 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 sacred relic of the great game of Aussie Rules now resides in its own display cabinet at the Army Museum of South Australia and Aussie Rules ‘tragics’ are welcome to come and worship the treasure.