The Embassies of the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic, in collaboration with the ANU Centre for European Studies, have the pleasure of inviting you to an exhibition and a lecture on the cooperation between the Czechoslovak and Australian armed forces during World War II, with a special emphasis on a significant battle of World War II – the Siege of Tobruk.
Date: Wednesday 20 April, 5.00pm – 7.00pm
Venue: Auditorium, ANU Research School of Social Sciences, 146 Ellery Crescent, Acton
About this event
The first shots of the Second World War were fired on the 1st September 1939 in the middle of Europe, far from the shores of Australia. However, the sound of those shots reverberated all the way to the land down under. Even though in the 6 years to come the horrors of ground combat did not reach the Australian continent, thousands of Australian soldiers fought on battlefields in the Pacific, Asia, Europe and North Africa.
When the war broke out, almost 1000 Czechoslovaks lived in Australia. Many of them volunteered to join the war effort. Czechoslovak volunteers received Australian uniforms and were deployed to the Middle East, where they were absorbed into the Czechoslovak brigades and later joined battles alongside Australian units.
In April 1941 around 14,000 Australian soldiers were besieged for several months in Tobruk by a German–Italian army. In one of his broadcasts the Nazi propagandist William Joyce described the tenacious defenders as being caught 'like rats in a trap'. This was a term that the Allied soldiers embraced as an ironic compliment and hence the term “Desert Rats”.
From August 1941, Australian soldiers had been relieved by the British, Polish and Czechoslovak forces. Our Exhibition focuses on the Czechoslovak battalion formation and its involvement during the battle, Czechoslovak-Australian interactions during World War II, the aftermath and the Czechoslovak soldiers in Australian exile after the war.
17:00 Opening Remarks:
- Ms Anne McNaughton, Director of the ANU Centre for European Studies
- HE Tomas Dub, Ambassador of the Czech Republic to Australia
- HE Tomas Ferko, Ambassador of the Slovak Republic to Australia
17:15 – Prof Frank Bongiorno, ANU School of History
17:40 – Mr Guy Butler-Manuel, ANU Centre for European Studies and Utrecht University
18:00 – Opening of the Exhibition followed by refreshments
Please note that free parking is available at the Baldessin parking station just across the road from the venue.