Thursday, November 20, 2014

10 June 1941 with the 2/27th Battalion in Syria

The plan for 10 June 1941 was for the 2/27th Battalion to move north along the road. Carriers from the 6th Cavalry would scout ahead. The 2/16th Battalion would move through the hills and clear opposition. Farther from the coast, the Cheshire reached Kafr Sir on 10 June after a short fight. The carriers moved north across the bridge at about 6am. A troop was ordered to move towards Imsar while most moved north along the main road. The carriers on the main road chased off some French Spahis with pack mules. They were then attacked by French armoured cars. The anti-tank rifles on the carriers were able to repel the armoured cars. They reached the vicinity of Adloun by 10am. They were fired on by some light French guns. They saw two tanks and then found that there were four abandoned French tanks. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The night of 9 to 10 June 1941 at the Litani

The large artillery barrage, which started at 9:30pm on 9 June 1941, lasted a half an hour. As many as 960 rounds were fired, and it was largely wasted, due to the earlier successes. After the firing ceased, Captain Horsely and his men moved back into the ground that they had captured. They were on the right, while a company from the 2/27th Battalion was on the left. The men from the 2/27th crossed the river in turns, in the one folding boat that was available. Two platoons had a stiff fight against machine guns and mortars. They won the fight and took "a company of Algerians". In the process, 20 commandos were set free. Beyond the river, there were caves dug into the cliff wall. They discovered "large quantities of food, weapons and ammunition". During the night, the 2/6h Field Company put a bridge over the river, east of the stone bridge that had been blown. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Friday, November 14, 2014

On the north bank o of the Litani on the evening of 9 June 1941

In the evening of 9 June 1941, Brigadier Stevens, of the 21st Brigade, ordered an operation to bridge the Litani river with folding boats. He did not have good communications with the troops on the north bank, and did not realized just how successful they had been. There were men from the 2/16th Battalion on the north bank. Captain Horley had pushed to within 500 yards of a building they called "the barracks". Captain Horley had personally led an attack the overcame a French machine gun emplacement. In the process of the successful attack to the north, they had taken some 70 French prisoners. The problem was that they had lost the ability to communicate with the south bank. They knew that there was a planned barrage. They had withdrawn to a safer position, but then they started receiving fire from British ships, so they had to withdraw further back. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Comments on the commando operation in Syria on 9 June 1941

The commando operation in support of the Australians on 9 June 1941 went very badly. The Australian Official History commented that while the commandos had bad luck, the operation was not well planned. There was no coordination between the Australian commander, Brigadier Stevens, and Colonel Pedder prior to the operation. They had a brief meeting in Nazareth, and that was all. The commando group had gone ashore about one-and-a-half miles north of the Litani River. They landed in a ill-chosen position that was well-defended. The result was Colonel Pedder and several more officers were killed. One group of commandos was captured by the French. Another group of commandos took some prisoners and then moved south to find the Australians. Another group that landed farther north was captured on 10 June at Alteniye. The commandos immediately to the north of the Australians had been badly shot up and had lost many men on the beach to artillery and machine gun fire. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

With the Commandos at the Litani on 9 June 1941

Lt-Col Keyes and his commandos had succeeded in advancing to the Litani river. This was on 9 June 1941. Some Australians from the 2/16th Battalion were ordered to carry boats to the commandos. They were in a poor location and were taking heavy fire. They lost as many as a quarter of the commandos and the Australians. They were only able to transport one boat to the river. Two loads of commandos and Australians were able to cross the river. By noon, they had taken a French defensive position that had protected the river and captured about 35 men. In a few hours, the commandos and one platoon of Australians were across the river. Captain Longworth, of the 2/4th Field Regiment eventually was able to contact his unit. He found out that an attack was planned for 9:30pm. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Some success at the Litani river on 9 June 1941

After elements of the 2/16th Australian Battalion had crossed the Litani river on 9 June 1941, the company commander asked for artillery support. Communications were easier, as a signalman had put telephone lines across the river. The 2/4th Field Regiment had an observation post well-placed for observing the situation. After some concerted fire on the enemy positions, the platoons on the north side of the river were able to attack. They had six 25 pounders firing in support. The men had to advance over a plowed field with no cover. They had to cut wire, but eventually overran positions held by Algerian troops. For their efforts, they killed 30 troops, captured 38, and took 11 machine guns. The next step had Australians going left on the ridge. With artillery support again, they captured 12 men, a 75mm field gun, and two machine guns. One prisoner boasted that a "fresh company" of Algerians was "on the next ridge". So, at about 4pm, the Australians prepared to be attacked. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Across the Litani river on 9 June 1941

At the Litani river, the Australians decided to tie a line to the boat and use that to haul it across the river. That actually worked. The first boatload made it to the north side and fanned out. The French were firing mortar bombs at the men on the south bank and caused casualties. There was bamboo along the river and the men pushed through the bamboo to the orchard beyond. They eventually got fifty men across and held about 400 yards. The next step was to put seventy men from Horley's company across. These men were all from MacDonald's 2/16th Battalion. To support their troops on the ground, the Vichy French destroyers Gu├ępard and Valmy closed in and fired on the Australians. They were answered by the 2/4th Field Regiment and the destroyers sought cover with smoke and withdrew. Some British destroyers found the French destroyers off Sidon in the afternoon and exchanged fire. The British destroyer Janus was damaged while the faster French destroyers escaped. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

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