By Bev Jordan
At 101 years old Dennis Davis from Castle Hill stands tall and straight, a proud World War 2 veteran. Rat of Tobruk
Last year he walked on the ANZAC Day march in the city, this year he will be in a wheelchair because of a foot injury.
Dennis is one of nine surviving “Rat of Tobruk” in Australia. One of only two in NSW.
Dennis served in the 9th Division AIF in the Middle East and was among the 14,000 Australian troops defending the key garrison of Tobruk in Libya against united German and Italian armies. Hundreds of men died.
Nazi propaganda broadcaster William Joyce (aka Lord Haw Haw) gave the “Rats” their nickname after telling his listeners that the allied troops at Tobruk were “caught like rats in a trap.”
The men, who heard the broadcast, wore their “Rats of Tobruk” nickname as a badge of honour especially after withstanding 242 days of constant bombardment to hold the garrison for the Allies alongside troops from Britain and India.
Dennis turned 21 while at Tobruk. He said: “I just thought, I am 21 today and that was it.”
Dennis was 17 when his family migrated to Australia from the UK in 1937. He was working as a clerk with the State Tax Office when World War II broke out. He originally wanted to join the RAAF (“they had a very nice uniform”) but after completing all the tests was told he was colourblind and so could be a clerk.
“I didn’t want to go to war to be a clerk so I went back to work.” He said when news of the Battle of Dunkirk happened he decided to volunteer again. “I went out during my lunch break and joined the AIF (Australian Imperial Force).”
During his five years and four months of war service, Dennis took part in five different campaigns and says God was his constant companion while serving in Africa, the Middle East, New Guinea and Borneo.
“Every morning I prayed to live through the night. And every night I prayed to make it through until morning.”
Dennis says he thinks of the friends daily, not just ANZAC Day or Remembrance Day.
“I think of my mates every day,” he said. “I hope the powers-that-be realise that no matter how long it takes, it is better to talk then go to war. There are no winners in war.”
Dennis married his wartime sweetheart, Margaret and they were married for 61 years before she passed away in 2004. They have two daughters, Linda and Maureen, seven grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren.
He will be attending the Anzac Day March in the city with his granddaughter Fiona Brown, as he does every year.