Thinking about Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday this week, my focus has been on commemorating the 10,000 Allied casualties from World War II who were killed in Libya.
Hundreds of thousands of British citizens have a grandparent or a family relation who are buried in the four Commonwealth War Cemeteries at Tobruk, Knightsbridge, Benghazi and Tripoli. Perhaps the most iconic of these is the burial ground for those who died during the nine month siege of Tobruk, which was as much a symbol of defiance as Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain because it was the first occasion that the German Blitzkrieg war machine was defeated in battle. The fortress, as it was known, was relieved in November 1941, when six Victoria Crosses were awarded to British and Irish soldiers (four of them posthumous). The many acts of incredible bravery are covered in Part 3 of Liberating Libya, including the near-suicidal advance on foot of the Black Watch, who were “played-in” by Pipe Major Rab Roy against Rommel’s well-sited artillery and machine guns.
For people who are reluctant to pay tribute to soldiers who gave their lives for today’s freedoms, it is worth remembering the 270 innocent people killed when Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, which is also in the news again. With a major international conference on Libya beginning this week in Paris, I am sure the continued pursuit of those responsible for the murder of PC Yvonne Fletcher and the bombing 33 years ago will be highlighted more by the Media than the 80th anniversary of the Relief of Tobruk, but they are all part of the same Anglo-Libyan tapestry that deserves our attention.