RSLWA mourns loss of Rat of Tobruk Arthur Olsen


RSLWA has lost a very special breed – Rat of Tobruk Arthur Olsen, 99, who died just hours after participating in his final ANZAC Day March.

ANZAC Day was incredibly special to Mr Olsen, a veteran of the Battle of Britain and a Rat of Tobruk.

He died at his nursing home on Friday morning, the morning after being wheeled in his chair by his grandson along St Georges Terrace  as part of the traditional ANZAC Day  March.

Mr Olsen was 20 when he joined the Australian Imperial Force – fighting in three campaigns over six years, including: the Battle of Britain in the Field Ambulance attached to the 2/32nd Battalion; and in Africa and Asia with the 2/11th Field Ambulance and the 2/1 Australian General Hospital.

Mr Olsen landed in Tobruk in April of 1941, battling throughout the entire eight-month siege and surviving many close calls, including a bomb that exploded on top of his dugout.

RSLWA Chief Executive Officer John McCourt said Mr Olsen was a valued member of RSLWA and would be sorely missed.

“Arthur was the quintessential West Australian – born in Meekatharra, growing up on the Goldfields, working hard and honest, and joining Army at the breakout of World War II,” Mr McCourt said.

“As a Rat of Tobruk, he was a legend and hero, and shall long be remembered for is selfless service to his nation.”

WA Governor Kim Beazley said: ‘’The passing of Arthur Olsen should, and has been, well noted. He left us the day after ANZAC Day. I am sure from his point of view if he had a choice for his last day on earth it would have been ANZAC Day.

“You couldn’t miss him during the March. Be-medalled, this great Rat of Tobruk passed by in his wheelchair pushed by a reservist grandson. As I saluted him as he passed the dais, his great record was whispered in my ear. His great family I learned about in the tributary writing on his passing.

“Our community was graced and ennobled by his presence. His 16 children, 42 grandchildren and 38 great-grandchildren, and one great, great-grandchild, can bask in the community appreciation of his great life.

“It is said we only truly die when the last person to mention our name passes. On that basis, Arthur Olsen will live on for a very long time. His physical passing diminishes us but his life elevated us beyond that adjustment.”

Rest in Peace brave soldier!


Rat of Tobruk Arthur Olsen, 99, at his final ANZAC Day March with his family. Photo: Facebook