The Siege of Tobruk, 11th April – 27th November 1941. H.W.Nicholls, 1 Australian chute Battalion and 2/1 Australian Pioneer Battalion. Served in Benghazi and Tobruk, awarded the Military Cross on 17th October 1941 for gallantry at the age of 20.
“Tobruk is not a siege, nor a defence. It is a permanent offensive … day after day, night after night.”
The following day, after four nights observing the enemy’s habits, Lieutenant Henry Nicholls from C Company 2/1st Pioneer Battalion had planned to intercept an enemy ration truck, but a last-minute change in route derailed this plan. Nicholls decided instead to intercept the carrying party heading towards the truck. But again he failed. As a last resort Nicholls ventured towards four enemy sangars. It was known that the enemy occupied the sangars and that they were heavily armed, but Nicholls deliberately woke the enemy, rushed the sangar and bayoneted eight occupants. Corporal Lorrie Raward followed and killed a further five enemy. As they retreated, enemy machine-gun fire opened up and Corporal Raward was shot and left in no man’s land. The remaining members of the patrol retreated back to their lines, with one prisoner in hand. Thirty minutes later a second patrol was mounted with the intent of finding Raward’s body. After 2 1/2 hours of searching the vicinity of no man’s land, they returned unsuccessful. These examples highlight the range of achievements, successes and failures that patrols met. The key to successful patrolling rested with the compact, resolute and enterprising initiative of the troops.