Tuesday, September 01, 2015
Monday, August 31, 2015
Lt-Colonel Moten, commander of the 2/27th Battalion, came to the river crossing. This was at about 1:30pm on 6 July 1941. He planned to establish his battalion headquarters at El Boum. They now had a phone line to El Boum, so Moten could talk with Captain Nichols, who had arrived at El Boum at 8am. By midnight, the 2/27th Battalion controlled the planned area. That would allow the 17th Brigade, commanded by Brigadier Savige, to block the road to the north from Damour. The rear company of the 2/27th, along with the remnants of the fourth company, were spread on a wide front, but were not as far towards Damour has had been hoped.
Another battle was fought at El Atiqa, starting at midnight on 5 to 6 July. There were three weakened companies of the 2/16th Battalion that were attacking. They were supported by an artillery barrage. They had to cross the river and move forward to the Beit ed Dine road. The French replied with their own artillery barrage. The plan included a frontal attack, which seems to be ill-considered. The advance was blocked and they were reduced to exchanging fire with the French. By night, the remnants of the 2/16th Battalion were on the El Atiqa ridge and were holding on to their position.
There was concern that the French might attack along the Beit ed Dine road with armored cars and tanks. As early as 10pm on 5 July, Captain Nichols, commanding one company of the 2/27th Battalion, was in the woods located between the Damour tributary and Ed Dalimiye. Part of the 2/14th Battalion were at Kramdech by 8pm. Another company reached the Beit ed Dine road by 3:15am. They blocked with road with stones and waited for daylight. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.
Friday, August 28, 2015
The men of the 21st Australian Brigade moved out at about midnight on the night of 4 to 6 July 1941. This was the start of the battle for Damour, in Lebanon. At 12:35pm, the artillery commenced their supporting fire. The ground that the men had to travel was extremely rough. One company from the 2/27th Battalion was in the lead on the narrow track that went down to the river crossing and then up to El Boum. The roughness of the ground meant that they needed to allow resting time along the way. The first platoon was that commanded by Lieutenant Sims, who had found the river crossing. They tried walking in the wadi, so that they would have cover from the French fire, but they decided that they would be safer back on the trail, despite the lack of cover. The wadi had too many places where men might fall. As there started to be light, they reached a barrier of concertina wire. They continued, trying not to be seen. They could hear the French firing. They fixed bayonets and charged into the village. The French were seen running from the attackers. They occupied the village and waited for more men to arrive.
The next company to move out was hit by accurate French artillery fire. Officers were killed and the company commander was wounded. That company needed to be reorganized under the leadership of Lieutenant Thomas. The men at El Boum had expected the second company at 7am. When they did not arrived, the spread out and advanced. By midnight on 6 July, the 2/27th Battalion had taken their objectives, so that the 17th Brigade could move forward. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Monday, August 24, 2015
By early July 1941, the British had accumulated five brigades in Iraq. With the 10th Indian Division now in Iraq, Major-General Slim, the commander, was put in charge of the troops in northern Iraq. At this point, General Wilson was back to issuing orders. General Clark, of Habforce, had orders to advance west to Homs so as to block the road to Tripoli on the coast. They should also advance to the southwest to Baalbek, which threatened Beirut. The 10th Indian Division was to threaten Aleppo. The 21st Indian Brigade was motorized and had the 13th Lancers, an armored car regiment. They were dependent on air support from an improvised squadron. They had twelve aircraft, four Hurricanes, four Gladiators, and four Blenheims. By 6 July, the French had shot down all the Hurricanes. The 10th Indian Division troops were operating in the north, near the Turkish border. Because of the French air attacks, the division was not able to reach Aleppo.
For the defense of Damour, to support Beirut, the French had two French Foreign Legion battalions. They were reduced in strength, as were the five Lebanese battalions. The British believed that the French artillery consisted of four 75mm batteries and two medium guns (probably 155mm). There were also some coast defense guns that might be a factor. Besides the force at Damour, there were two lines behind that at Khalde and then right before Beirut.
The orders for the attack were for the 21st Brigade to clear the enemy from the area south of the river, and then advance to a line from the river mouth to the east. The 17th Brigade would move up behind the 21st Brigade and be ready to move against any other French forces not near the 21st Brigade. The 25th Brigade would move towards Beit ed Dine. The Cheshire Yeomanry would be in the mountains further east. The Australians had their own artillery support. They had some 62 guns, including one medium battery. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.