Polish Independent Carpathian Rifle Brigade
Three months after the German invasion of Poland in 1939, the Polish Commander-in-chief decided that a Polish unit in the French territory of Levant be created. In April 1940, the Independent Carpathian Rifle Brigade was formed in Syria. The Brigade comprising over 4,000 men was eventually moved to Palestine and placed under command of the British. In June 1941 the brigade was ordered to relieve the exhausted Australian troops defending Tobruk. The Poles were moved by a number of ships into Tobruk at night during a moonless period. At first, the Australian response to the Poles was one of bemusement since the Australians were keen to be rid of the desert heat, sandstorms and the constant bombardment from artillery and bombing. On the other hand the Poles were ready to unleash their vengeance and appeared to relish the idea of going to battle. The Poles earned a fearsome reputation and held on to their positions from September through to November 1941.
After the war, over 1500 former members of the Polish military migrated to Australia, including many who had served with the Independent Carpathian Rifle Brigade in Tobruk. A large number joined the Rats of Tobruk Association.