Battle of Giarabub
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseOn the Libyan-Egyptian border, about 200 kilometers from the coast, a garrison of 1,340 Italian and 800 colonial troops was stationed at the oasis village of Giarabub, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Salvatore Castagna. As the British offensive Operation Compass raged on to the north, a small Australian mechanized cavalry unit was dispatched in late Dec 1940 to keep this group in check. Although Giarabub was far from the main stage of the action, it was at a strategic location for either side to counter any enemy movement through the desert should any opposing commanders dared to deploy such a tactic. The distance meant that the Italian garrison had to be supplied via air between Dec 1940 and Mar 1941 to keep up their defense. In early Jan 1941, the British attempted to drop leaflets urging surrender, citing the success of Operation Compass in the Cyrenaica region in Libya to the north, but the Italians did not comply. Throughout Jan and Feb 1941, the Australian troops continuously tested the defenses, but they never had enough strength for a full scale offensive. On 17 Mar, German Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel sent a message to the garrison, asking the troops to fight on for a few more weeks and German reinforcements would arrive.
ww2dbaseOn 21 Mar, the Australians finally received enough reinforcements to launch an actual attack to take Giarabub. After two days of fighting, the oasis village was captured. The Italians suffered about 250 casualties, while the Australians suffered 17 killed and 77 wounded. Lieutenant Colonel Castagna was seriously injured in the fighting, but was able to recover and spent the rest of the war in India as a prisoner of war.
Last Major Update: Sep 2010
Battle of Giarabub Interactive Map
Battle of Giarabub Timeline
|17 Mar 1941||Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel sent a message to the besieged Italian garrison at Giarabub in southeastern Libya, asking the troops to hold on for a few more weeks and promising that his forces would arrive in relief in that time.|
|21 Mar 1941||After laying siege to the Italian garrison at Giarabub in southeastern Libya for the past three months, Australian forces finally gathered enough strength to begin a large scale assault.|
|23 Mar 1941||Australian troops captured Giarabub in southeastern Libya. The commander of the Italian garrison, Lieutenant Colonel Castagna, was captured and would spent the rest of the war as a prisoner of war in India.|
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Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, Aug 1939