Thursday, October 08, 2015

The attack on the heights at Badarane on 9 and 10 July 1941

Starting in the evening of 9 July 1941, a company from the 2/31st Battalion was ordered to take the heights at Badarane. This was especially challenging because there was a deep wadi between the Australians and the Badarane heights. They might have had support from their battalion carrier platoon and a troop from the 6th Cavalry, but there was a bridge out that blocked them from participating. The wadi was 800 feet deep. The heights were 600 feet above the wadi and were terraced. The attacking company had only some sixty men. The platoon leaders were a lieutenant and two sergeants. The men left Niha at 9pm on 9 July, which was about three miles away. They started out with four mules and their drivers, but they were left behind because the terrain was too difficult for mules. They had progressed to within 400 yards of Badarane by 2:30am on 10 July. They came under machine gun fire that was fired over their heads and was landing behind them. The company commander led his men to the left of the heights into olive trees. One man alone bayoneted the four defenders in one position. 43 Australians attacked and 13 were killed in the fight. They found some forth or fifty dead Senegalese soldiers. There were also many wounded that they took prisoner. There had been about 200 defenders of the heights when the Australians attacked. By 5am, the company had won the battle. They eventually got orders to destroy the French equipment and to withdraw back to the company headquarters. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Back to Jezzine from 6 July 1941

The 25th Australian Brigade had started to make progress at Jezzine while the battle for Damour was being fought. From 6 July 1941, the 2/31st Battalion moved north to Beit ed Dine. The 2/31st had advanced to Niha and beyond by early 7 July. The Cheshire Yeomanry was also active and had taken some French prisoners in Mrousti. They had talked with a Swiss member of the French Foreign Legion who told them that the French had withdrawn from Bater because of the intensity of the artillery fire. The current commander of the 25th Brigade, Brigadier Plant, ordered the left battalion group (because they included artillery) to take Beiqoun and Mazraat ech Chouf. One company was to take the commanding heights near Mazraat ech Chouf. The 2/25th Battalion with support from the 2/6th Field Regiment would move north. By 3pm on 8 July, they started to receive French artillery fire. They called in artillery support from the 2/6th Field Regiment. One platoon then was attacked by African troops. By 7pm, one platoon was in an exposed position and had taken casualties. The platoon was withdrawn, leaving the French in possession of the high ground. To the east, a company of the 2/31st Battalion was attacked twice on 8 July. Their losses left them with only 20 men. By 4:30, they were reinforced by an 18 man platoon from another hill. One company of the 2/25th Battalion tried to take Hill 1054 from the French. The attackers were left in exposed positions and were unable to move. Fortunately, some of the Pioneers came up in support. Men with Bren guns were able to take out three French machine guns. Artillery fire was called in. The guns fired for about 50 minutes and then the Australians charged the French with fixed bayonets. The French broke and ran. The French withdrew in confusion, but the Australians had lost communication with their artillery. Otherwise, they could have taken out the French vehicles. That withdrawal left the Australians on the heights at Mazraat ech Chouf. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Near the coast on 11 July 1941 approaching Beirut

Early on 11 July 1941, French fire had slowed and stopped. Lt-Col. King ordered men to probe north from the roadblock. The men did not see any French forces, but they found that the French had merely allowed the probing men to pass through their lines and return without disturbing them. During the early afternoon, the French were active and present again. They also sent a tank squadron out along the sand dunes. This was just beyond the wireless antenna. Brigadier Savige, on hearing the news, told Lt-Col. King to stay in place in their current positions. Brigadier Savige was planning an attack for the morning of 12 July. At the same time, Brigadier Savige, commander of the 17th Australian Brigade, had ordered the 2/3rd Battalion to move forward onto the ridges that dominated the land near Aramoun. The land was so rough that supplying the forward troops with food was a problem. They survived on goat and also got horse meat from the local villagers. Hutchison's company, now of only about thirty men, came under French fire. They pulled back and set up a mortar that they used to fire back at the French machine guns. On the right, the 2/14th Battalion moved forward. They found four French 155mm guns and 200 rounds at Daqoun. They eventually moved forward to Ain Kaour. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Greatly reduced Australian battalions on 9 and 10 July 1941 in Syria and Lebanon

During the afternoon of 9 July 1941, the 21st Australian Brigade was ordered to take "Abey and Kafr Matta" while the 17th Brigade was to advance on Beirut. When men from the 2/27th Battalion entered Abey and were near Daqoun, they found that the French had pulled back from the area. The 2/14th Battalion was to hold the area near Abey, Kafr Matta, along with Hill 903. They also were to block the road to Beirut. When Brigadier Savige, of the 17th Brigade, had moved north through Damour and made contact with Lt-Col. King of the 2/5th Battalion. Savige was unsure of what he should do next, and traveled to the 7th Division headquarters to get guidance. The 2/5th Battalion found themselves in a poor position, so he ordered a move north for about two miles. They reached their new position by 4:20am on 10 July. The 2/5th Battalion was by this time reduced to companies of 45 men or less. They had also moved so far that they were running short of phone wire for signals. Brigadier Savige arrived later in the morning of 10 July. He had Lt-Col. King move his men to the next ridge near Khalde. The 2/5th now had better artillery support. They were in company with the 2/5th Field Regiment and had a group of 6-inch howitzers from the British 7th Medium Regiment. The Australians had a fire plan for a new attack that would start at 3:30m on 10 July. They would have a barrage move forward of the advancing troops. They reached the French road block and block house. One platoon was held up by French mortar fire and machine guns. The 6th Cavalry came forward in support and had cleared the area in front of the road block. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The 6th Cavalry in action on 8 July 1941

On the morning of 8 July 1941, while the 2/16th Battalion was improving their situation on the ridges, more of the 6th Cavalry Regiment crossed the Damour River to join their other part. There were already three tanks (probably captured R-35's) on the north side. They were with two companies from the 2/2nd Pioneers. The Pioneers were now a mile north of the river. Progress had been halted by French fire and the threat of French 75mm guns covering the road. The squadron commander was angry about someone saying bad things about the cavalry being held up and ordered the three tanks forward, which was a bad idea. A tank came around the bend in the road and was hit by fire from a 75mm gun 300 yards away. A second tank came up in support. The damaged tank was set on fire. The crew abandoned the damaged tank and was picked up by the other tank. Lt. Macmeikan, of the 2/5th Field Regiment saw the gun flash and was able to knock it out by artillery fire. By 2pm, the decision was made to pull back and call in an artillery barrage. When the Pioneers pulled back, the French moved forward to be clear of the artillery fire. When the Pioneers attacked again during the night, they moved forward into part of the town. By morning on 9 July, the 6th Cavalry was able to drive through Damour. It was after this event that Brigadier Berryman had arrived and ordered men forward when he saw the situation. Brigadier Savige was put in charge to restore some order around Damour and beyond. During the afternoon on 9 July, men from the 2/27th found that the French had pulled out of Abey and Daqoun. In response, the 2/14th Battalion was ordered to move into Abey, Kafr Matta, and a hill between them. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official history.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

After Damour fell on 9 July 1941

Once the Australians realized that the French had withdrawn from Damour and surrounding positions, they exploited the situation. By 7am on 9 July 1941, men from the 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion and the 2/16th Battalion met Captain Noonan's company from the 2/14th Battalion. This was on the northeast side of Damour. The 6th Cavalry and some Pioneers moved up to Karacol. The roadblock on the road to Beirut now was held by two companies from the 2/5th Battalion. A local Lebanese told someone on Brigadier Savige's staff that the French had pulled out of Abey. This was to the east. They sent word to General Allen, the 7th Australian Division commander of the situation.

Brigadier Berryman had arrived back in the west from Merdjayoun to resume his role as the 7th Division artillery commander. The commander of the 2/5th Field Regiment had driven north for 3-1/2 miles to a roadblock. Two tanks from the 6th Cavalry were held by the roadblock. Brigadier Berryman gave orders for continued movement to the north and informed the division headquarters of his actions. There was a situation now that the division commander had told the 17th Brigade not to advance until he issued orders. Men with guns from the 2/5th Field Regiment moved quickly north. The guns that were farthest north were around Karacol. They were drawn into a duel with French guns, firing over open sights. From this position, they were also able to shell the southern edge of Beirut. The situation was rather chaotic, and needed someone to bring the situation under control. That task was given to Brigadier Savige, of the 17th Brigade. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Monday, September 21, 2015

8 July 1941 at Damour

The situation on 8 July 1941 near Damour was that the town was being threatened on three sides. There were three Australian battalions involved. The 2/5th blocked the road out of Damour to the north. On the northeastern side, the 2/14th Battalion was in position. Then there were the 2/2nd Pioneers "moving up from the south". Artillery support had to be carefully coordinated so as to not shoot at Australians while firing in support. At 5pm, Colonel Chapman brought orders from the division commander, General Allen, proposing that the 21st Brigade would have responsibility for "the area south of the Wadi Daqoun". Brigadier Savige's 17th Brigade would move north along the coast road. The 21st Brigade would move eastward towards Abey. By 7:30pm on 88 July, there were reports of French movement. This was to the north east. During the day on 8 July, two companies were near Damour on the east side. There was some concern that there might be a danger of accidentally firing on Australians.

8 July was a time spent by the 2/16th Battalion on the ridges at Mar Midhail and El Atiqa. They were gradually making themselves more secure. In the morning, three tanks from the 6th Cavalry (probably the captured French R-35 tanks) crossed the river. The 2/2Pioneers were moving north to a point about a mile north from the river. The French were still strong in the banana plantation. One tank caught by a French 75mm gun was knocked out. The 2/5th Field Regiment fired in support and knocked out the French gun. Brigadier Stevens decided to withdraw the men and call in artillery fire on the French. Some ground had been lost on the 8th, but during the night, the Pioneers took back what had been lost and were. A troop of the 6th Cavalry was able to drive through Damour by 4am and they had the town. They found that during the night, the French had withdrawn from where they had been fighting. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

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