Sunday, April 30, 2006

In the case of Syria, like Iraq, "London" knew better than General Wavell

By late spring of 1941, General Wavell had become very recalcitrant. After the traumatic experience of Greece, Crete, and Cyrenaica, he became very reluctant to commit to operations conceived of in London. He resisted participation in Iraq and Syria, and they only happened due to the insistance of the commanders in Britain. In both of these cases, the results were much better than the operations from February 1941 until May. The Official History points out that veteran Indian units did very well, and that the Australians, despite being given the worst terrain over which to operate carried out good plans, and because of their determination, were able to succeed. Syria was removed as a potential German base, and and a hostile Vichy regime was replaced by a friendly, Free French administration. You could almost sense that Wavell's days were numbered as theater commander. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Vichy hated the Free French forces

The Vichy officials hated the Free French forces and would not even meet with them. Churchill was a DeGaull and Free French supporter. It was unfortunate when they later were forced to rename the movement as "Fighting French", rather than Free French. France has been odd, in that there have always been an extreme right-wing, faction, essentially fascists, such as those who ran the Vichy government and then there were the Communists, and their Socialist allies. There must have been some inbetween, we can only hope. The original French revolution was a precursor to Communism. The Paris Commune in 1871 is revered by the Communist movement. I believe that they were killed to a man, and I have seen a photograph of the stacked bodies.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Towards the end in Syria

While the 7th Australian Division was fighting along the coast, the 6th (British) Division was fighting to the east. The 16th Infantry Brigade was to advance north on the Damascus-Beirut road on the night of 9 to 10 July 1941. The Free French Marine Battalion, on their right, was stopped, as they were under heavy fire. The 16th Brigade and the Vichy forces facing them fought to a standstill. Still, the Vichy situation was desperate and late on 11 July, General Dentz asked for an end to fighting. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The 7th Australian Division at the River Damour in July 1941

The 7th Australian Division now had three full brigades, with the formation of the 17th Brigade, commanded by Brigadier Savige. The division was positioned near the coast and had the task of fighting a battle against five Vichy battalions with artillery, defending the River Damour. The plan was for the 21st Brigade to attack the village of El Atiqa, at the river. The 17th Brigade would then advance to exploit the breakthrough. The 25th Brigade would take the rail center at Beit ed Dine. No breakthrough at El Atiqa occurred, despite gains there. To the east, however, the 17th Brigade was able to move forward and beat back Vichy counterattacks. On 9 July 1941, the 17th Brigade took the town of Damour. This was sufficient to cause a general Vichy retreat. A stiff fight took place at Khalde on 10 July, five miles from Beirut. North of Jezzine, fighting still was proceeding. Private J. H. Gordon, of the 2/31st Australian Battalion won a Victoria Cross for his acations in the night of 10 July. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Indian brigades advance in July 1941

One Indian brigade group, the 17th, moved forward along a rail from Tel Kotchek. Antoher, the 21st, moved towards Aleppo from Deir ez Zor. Some of their troops reached the Turkish border at Jerablus. The 4/13th Frontier Force Rifles fought an Arab guerrila force under Fawzi Qawukji, and ended up routing them with a bayonet charge. Fawzi Qawukji had been operating against the British in Palestine and saw an opportunity to create trouble for them in Syria, therefore drawing him in. He had been operating in Iraq, also trying to cause trouble for Habforce. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

No.3 Squadron RAAF

There is a good page describing the service of No.3 Squadron RAAF in World War II. They principally served in the Mediterranean Theater, and started with Gloster Gladiators and some Westland Lysanders. They moved to Hurricanes and then variations of the Curtis P-40. They had only been re-equipped with Tomahawks in May, shortly before the commencement of the Syrian campaign.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Australian page about Syria and Lebanon in June 1941

There is an interesting page called the "Road to Damascus" that has information about "Syria and Lebanon June 1941". This is part of an official Australian government website called "Australia's War 1939-1945". They summarize:

On 9 June, the Australians were involved in heavy fighting at the Litani River in southern Lebanon. Further intense action occurred between 11-27 June at Merdjayoun, Lebanon, where Australian and British troops attacked and counter-attacked Vichy forces. On 21 June, the Syrian capital of Damascus fell to a combined Indian, British, Australian and Free French force. Fighting, however, continued in Lebanon as the Allies struggled to take the important coastal centre of Damour. With the fall of Damour on 9 July 1941, the Vichy commander, General Dentz, asked for an armistice which was signed at Acre on 13 July 1941. Altogether about 18,000 Australian troops took part in the Syrian campaign.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Early July 1941 in Syria

By 6 July 1941, the 4th Cavalry Brigade had contacted the RAF armoured cars working with the Free French. They reached Furglus on 7 July. This is 20 miles from Homs. Supplies could now flow through Damascus to them. In the last phase of the campaign in Syria, the 10th Indian Division, commanded by General Slim, was ordered to enter Syria from Iraq. They would be protected by No.127 Squadron, which had 4 Hurricanes and 4 Gladiators. The 10th Indian Division took Deir ez Zor on 3 July. They took 9 guns and 100 prisoners. The Official History suggests that many defenders must have escaped. The defenders had been part of the 2nd Light Desert Company, most of which had been captured at Sukhne on 1 July. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Martin 167 bomber

The Martin 167 bomber had been built to compete for a USAAC requirement for a light bomber. The prototype was the XA-22. The Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB has a good page about the plane. From information at the Glenn L. Martin Air Museum, we know the production figures for the Martin 167:

Martin Customer Number Time
Model Designation Produced Period Customer

167 XA-22 1 1939 USAAC
167-F1 167-A3 115 1939 France
167-F2 167-A3 100 1940 France
167-F3 167-A3 95 1940 France
167-B3 Maryland Mk.I 35 1940 Great Britain
167-B4 Maryland Mk.II 150 1941 Great Britain

More action in the Syrian desert in late June and early July 1941

8 Tomahawks from No.3 Squadron, RAAF, escorted raiding Blenheims on a raid to hit Vichy forces at Palmyra. The Vichy had a raiding force of their own, consisting of Glenn L. Martin 167A3's (what the British called Marylands). Several were shot down by the Tomahawks. On the same day, the 1st Battalion, the Essex Regiment, took possesion of the heights to the northwest of Palmyra. The next three days saw them and the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry fighting for the ridge, overlooking the town. On 3 July, the Vichy garrison surrendered, along with those defending the small outpost T.3. Habforce took 48 aviators among the 187 prisoners. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Friday, April 21, 2006

"Equipment Used by the Tank Regiments"

There is a nice page called "Equipment Used by the Tank Regiments" that has data and photos of British tanks. He has a particularly nice, although blurry, photo of an A9 Cru.Mk.I CS tank in action. Good online photos of Cru.Mk.I and II tanks other than the prototypes seem to be in short supply. Many of us are equipped with photos from Aberdeen Proving Grounds, and like static displays. I can imagine that a person could go wild at the RAC Museum at Bovington, Dorset, if they allow photos. I spent much of the 1970's and 1980's travelling and taking photos of guns and tanks, in the eastern half of the US. "At some point", these will make an appearance, either online or in one or more books.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Habforce at Palmyra

The 4th Cavalry Brigade Group, the main striking force of Habforce, was still in front of Palmyra, in the desert. Their supply line was long and tenuous. They were helped by the Arab Legion, which took Sab Biyar, a Vichy outpost south of Palmyra. A telling incident took place on 1 July 1941, when the Arab Legion, commanded by Glubb Pasha, encountered the Vichy 2nd Light Desert Company. The Arab Legion staged "a mechanized cavalry charge" which routed the Vichy force, which lost 11 killed and left 5 officers and 75 men as prisoners. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The problems encountered from 24 June 1941

The 16th Brigade, with only two battalions, was moved from Palestine for the attack on Damascus. The remnants of the 5th Indian Brigade were sitting on the Damascus-Beirut Highway, facing west. The Vichy offered stiff resistance, and were in possession of the Jebel Mazar, a 5,000ft mountain. The 2/3rd Australian Battalion tried to take the mountain on 24 and 25 June 1941. They made more progress the next night. Early on 27 June, the 2/3rd Australian Battalion and the 2nd Queens did take the twin peaks, but were pushed back. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Merjayun in the third phase in Syria

Brigadier Berryman had made an unsuccessful attempt to recapture Merjayun, and then backed off, until reinforcements could be found. On 24 June 1941, the 2nd Battalion, the King's Own Royal Regiment arrived. They were nominally assigned to the 16th Infantry Brigade. In this campaign, battalions seem to have been used freely, independent of their brigade or division. The King's Own Royal Regiment was able to retake the town of Merjayun, but they were blocked from any further advance. Brigadier Galloway's new brigade, the 23rd, was replacing 7th Australian Division troops in this area. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Monday, April 17, 2006

The Third Phase in Syria at Sea

At sea, there was action for the first time in a while. British forces fought two Vichy destroyers, but without result. A Vichy destroyer bringing ammunition was hit in the harbour at Beirut. HMS Parthian, a submarine, sank the Vichy submarine Souffleur on 25 June 1941. On 1 July, a FAA Albacore from Cyprus sank a Vichy troopship St. Didier, in the Gulf of Adalia. The RAF, meanwhile, was attacking harbours, both in Syria and Libya. No troops seemed likely to be able to reach Syria. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Changes in command in Syria

On 18 June 1941, General Lavarack, the former 7th Australian Division commander, with the 1st Australian Corps headquarters, took command in Syria, from Damascus to the coast. General Blamey became Deputy Commander-in-Chief, Middle East. Major-General Allen became the new 7th Australian Division commander. Major-General Everts, the 6th (British) Division commander took over all British and Australian troops south and southwest of Damascus. The new command structure was in place to oversee the third phase of the campaign, which ran from 23 June to 12 July 1941. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The end of the second phase in Syria in June 1941

With the help of naval bombardment, Sidon was finally taken by Australians. With the situation at Merjayun deteriorating, some of the Australians were withdrawn from Jezzine to join Brigadier Berryman's force. The Australians remaining at Jezzine had to go over to a defensive posture. The 2/31st Battalion was repeatedly attacked by mainly Senegalese troops, many of whom were captured. Late on 18 June, the 2/31st was reinforced by the 2/14th Australian Battalion. The Official History says that at the end of the second phase, Sidon and Damascus had been taken. The Vichy attacks had been blocked, but they still held Merjayun. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Friday, April 14, 2006

More about Syria after 21 June 1941

When the 10th Indian Division arrived in Iraq, that freed the 4th Cavalry Brigade to aid in Syria. On 21 June 1941, the brigade advanced towards Palmyra from Abu Kemal and from Haifa. When an outpost was captured 40 miles from the objective, the Vichy forces were alerted and sent aircraft to attack the brigade. The 4th Cavalry Brigade was pummelled from the air, and lacked the means to defend itself, so was unable to advance on Palmyra. That helped Palmyra to hold out for 12 days. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

From 20 June 1941, towards Damascus

The night of 20 June 1941, the 2/3rd Australian Battalion blocked the Beirut road. The staged a surprise assault at Barada gorge that opened the way. A counterattack was beaten back, and they held they position. By mid-morning, signs of a Vichy collapse were apparent. The RAF interdicted the Vichy withdrawal, and the Free French Brigade, augmented by Australian machine-gunners was on the edge of Damascus. By afternoon, General Legentilhomme was able to enter Damascus as the new Military Governor. The Official History credits the 5th Indian Brigade with doing the hard fighting to make all this possible. They had suffered heavily, losing "738 officers and men". This is based on the account in the Official History.

Wargame designers

I was involved with John Hill on a wargame design in the early 1970's: Bar Lev. I primarily did some artwork, but also was able to contribute towards the OOB (such was we knew). I ran across a picture of John Hill, Al Nofi, and James Dunnigan, dating from 1999. The picture is from Connections 1999:

The third buy from the left is John Hill, who reportedly now works as an intelligence analyst in the DC area.

Jim Watt has a good article about "Sword and Shield" tactics

Rommel was a master of "Sword and Shield" tactics. Jim Watt has a good article (rather wargaming-oriented) about how they worked. Jim writes:

The real value of the 88 was in the way the Germans used it - and this started in the Civil War in Spain ! Von Thoma had only PzKw 1 tanks against Russian T26’s so he used the "Shield and Sword" tactic. This involved retreating and drawing the Russian tanks onto a Pakfront ( linked anti- tank guns in prepared positions.) After the guns had done their work the tanks attacked the fleeing enemy tanks or the unsupported infantry.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

June 16 and later

The Free French General Legentilhomme had been wounded, but he greatly desired to return to his headquarters, with the situation still in doubt. The Vichy forces were threatening his position, but Brigadier Lloyd, still in command of forces moving towards Damascus, boldy attacked Mezze and took it, although the forts in the hills were still in Vichy hands. The Vichy counterattacked on 19 and 20 June, and the defenders were hard-pressed, as the Vichy forces had tanks, while the defenders only had the Boys anti-tank rifle. Reinforcements arrived on 20 June, but by then, the defenders had been captured. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

More action on 15 June 1941

The 25th Australian Infantry Brigade had moved forward from Merjayun late on 13 June 1941. They left a small force at Merjayun, while the brigade headed for Jezzine. The commander of the force at Merjayun decided to take an agressive approach, and he vacated the town by heading into the mountains to see if he could work his way around the Vichy flank. While they were gone, the Vichy obligingly moved back into the town. The way into Palestine seemed open, but the Vichy commander did not show much initiative. He was content to hold Merjayun. Brigadier Berryman, the divisional artillery commander, took command of a force to retake Merjayun. They were not able to retake the place, but did definitely close the possibility of any Vichy advance. In the process, Lieutenant A. R. Cutler, of the 2/5th Australian Field Regiment acted heroically, and continued to do so, for which he eventually was awarded an Victoria Cross. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Recapturing Kuneitra

A new arrival in Syria, the 16th Infantry Brigade, from the British 6th Division, helped to change the momentum. The 2nd Battalion of the Queen's Royal Regiment recaptured Kuneitra. Their only augmentation was a troop of 25pdrs and an Australian MG company. Kuneitra was held by one battalion, the Royal Fusiliers. We can only conclude the the Royal Fusiliers might have been attacked by a much stronger force, but the force tasked to hold Kuneitra was much weaker, as only an augmented battalion was sufficient to recapture the town. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Leadership styles

Rommel continually out-fought his British opponents until the material differential was so great that he had to withdraw. One of the key advantages that Rommel had was that he was more attuned to what was happening on the battlefield, while many of his British opponents were out of touch with their troops and had, therefore, lost control of the battle. Rommel's style was also to lead from the front, while many of the British were so far in the rear, that created their being out of touch. Rommel also had the advantage of having a superior tactical SIGINT unit, which kept him informed of British communications, at least up until they were bagged by the British in the El Alamein area. Having the good tactical SIGINT allowed Rommel often to know more about what was happening to the British troops than the British commanders in the rear knew. Generals O'Connor and Auchinleck were exceptions on the British side, when they were commanding in the field. I find it interesting to speculate about how well O'Connor might have done against Rommel, but he was in the field, only as an advisor during Rommel's initial assault, and he was quickly bagged. General Montgomery got around the problems by partly being close to the front, and keeping rigid control of the battle, so that he could stay in control that way. He greatly disliked fluidity, where he might lose control.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

British tank armaments

British tank armament policy in the late 1930's and WWII reflected the changing perception of how tanks would fight. The mistaken ideas of the all-tank school, such as Percy Hobart, thought that tanks would be used to fight tanks, so British gun-armed tanks were originally armed with the 2pdr gun, a high-velocity, low-shot weight (as the name implies) piece. Before that, British tanks were primarily armed with the medium velocity 47mm 3pdr. A few tanks (support tanks) were armed with a low-velocity 75mm gun for firing HE rounds. In parallel with the 2pdr gun, there continued to be a small number of support tanks armed with a gun for firing HE rounds. This was not considered to be the primary role of tanks, tanks were to fight other tanks, so they needed an "anti-tank gun". The British bureaucratic mind decided that numbers were more important than quality, so development of the much better 57mm 6pdr gun was deferred so that large numbers of the smaller gun could be producted.

Only after fighting Rommel, who taught them a radically new way to fight, where tanks attacked infantry and emplaced anti-tank guns were used to fight tanks, that the British started to rethink their policy. They also were greatly impressed by the 88mm AA/anti-tank gun, and the power of the larger guns. The organizational infighting in the British army kept the 95mm AA gun from being adapted for anti-tank use during the timeframe when it would have been most useful.

Besides seeing the utility of the 75mm gun on the Pzkw IV, at first a low-velocity gun, when the first American medium tanks arrived, armed with the medium velocity 75mm gun, there was a great impetus to arm British tanks with guns that were suitable for firing at both infantry and tanks. As the 57mm gun started to appear, some were bored out to 75mm, so that they were capable of firing HE. The larger 76.2mm guns that were fairly high velocity only appeared late in the war. There was the 17pdr gun, at first mounted in modified Shermans as the Firefly, and the less bulky "77mm" gun, really a 76.2mm gun, mounted in the Comet cruiser tank. Better guns, such as the potent "20pdr" only appeared post-war.

Friday, April 07, 2006

The 5th Indian Brigade in the beginning of the "second phase"

The 5th Indian Brigade attacked at Kissoue, early on 15 June 1941. The defense was not alert, and after repelling two counter-attacks, the 4th Indian Brigade was able to consolidate its position in possession of Kissoue with a night attack. The 1st Royal Fusiliers, the third battalion of the 5th Indian Brigade, was having a difficult time at Kuneitra. They were attacked by a strong force, and there were no resources to send to aid them. Almost to a man, they were taken prisoner. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

"The Second Phase": 14 to 22 June 1941 in Syria

What the Official History calls "the second phase" took place concurrently with the abortive Operation Battleaxe, from 14 June to 22 June 1941. When the Vichy French forces withdrew from Damascus, the nature of the bombing campaign changed. Now, the Blenheims were able to attack "targets of opportunity" on the roads. About half of the bombing effort in this phase was devoted to hitting moving enemy forces. The fighter forces were still dedicated to providing air cover for the warships, in this period, bringing them into contact with German aircraft, such as Ju-88's in the anti-shipping role. The Vichy air force was gradually being written off, with few British losses.
We also knew that the large destroyer Chevalier-Paul, just arriving from metropolitan France, was sunk by air attack. There is Chapter 8 from The Royal New Zealand Navy online. This Chapter is called "Operations off the Coast of Syria". The book confirms that the aircraft that sank the Vichy destroyer Chevalier-Paul were six FAA Swordfish flying from Cypress. This is largely based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

By 13 June, the assault on Syria was not going well

As of 13 June 1941, the Vichy French were stubbornly resisting the British invasion of Syria, and General Wavell realized that he needed to find more troops. He was able to commit two brigades of the British 6th Division, one of which was newly formed. From 8 June 1941, Blenheims from No.11 and No.84 Squadrons had been attacking airfields "at Aleppo, Palmyra, Damascus, Rayak," and the port of Beirut. The French were attacking British warships, including with two Vichy destroyers. The RAF now was able to attack French warships, after they had taken aggressive action. The thinking previously, was that it was a provocative act to bomb the ships, if they were sitting passively. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

British commanders in North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean theater

We might be in a position to offer some assessments of the various British commanders in North Africa and the overall Eastern Mediterranean and Africa. The list includes General Wavell, General O'Connor, General Wilson, General Auchinleck, and General (later Field Marshal) Montgomery.

General Wavell was asked to do some very unreasonable things, but until the spring of 1941, he had responded with a reasonable effort. In many ways, he proved himself mostly lucky, as he seems to have been unknowledgable about the conditions of modern warfare. Perhaps his main strength was his ability to recognize talent and to utilize it. Churchill had ruined General Wavell's attitude by the spring of 1941, so he really needed to be replaced and used elsewhere.

General Wilson ("Jumbo" Wilson) was a solid, old-school soldier, who was given one difficult task after another, and responded reasonably well. The Greek campaign had been forced on the army by Churchill, and was an unmitigated disaster, but General Wilson acquitted himself as well as was possible, in difficult circumstances.

General Auchinleck was more uneven, as he seemed to have trouble with judging people. His main strength was on the battlefield, and Churchill constantly pressed Auchinleck to take command in the field, as Churchill recognized Auchinleck's ability. Auchinleck was out by the fall of 1942, as Churchill's political survival depended on making some changes. Still, Auchinleck had saved Egypt and defeated Rommel in the First Battle of El Alamein, and his plan (with Major-General Dorman-Smith) for Alam el Halfa worked well.

General Montgomery was very conservative, and perhaps that was what was needed to stabilize the situation in North Africa. He was too conservative, and this was enabled by the vast inflow of resources into Egypt in late 1941 and early 1943. We suspect that Montgomery understood Rommel's tactical principles, and used them (cautiously). Rommel let anti-tank guns fight tanks and used his tanks to fight infantry. The Second Battle of El Alamein suggests that might have been how Montgomery fought the battle. In any case, Montgomery seems to have believed in and used combined arms battle groups, but to a greater degree than Auchinleck (and Dorman-Smith). Given Montgomery's success, he is hard to criticize, except for his style and demeanor. Results justify a great deal, even if we dislike his style and demeanor.

Monday, April 03, 2006

The actual attack on Syria, commencing 8 June 1941

British and Free French troops moved into Syria and Lebanon. The 5th Indian Brigade quickly moved north 15 miles, to Sheikh Meskine, after taking Deraa, immediately after crossing the border. the 1st Royal Fusiliers moved into Kuneitra (familiar from the Yom Kippur War). On the second day, the Free French reached a point only 10 miles from Damascus. After they were blocked for several days, the 5th Indian Brigade was sent as reinforcements.

There were more Australians now involved. The 25th Australian Brigade was ordered to take Metjayun, but encountered heavy resistance. Still, they took Metjayun on 11 June, but the advance was altered to sweep through Jezzine. The 21st Australian Brigade moved north on the coast road. By 12 June, they had reached Sidon, where the Vichy troops were waiting. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

More of the Syria story

Syria was less of a threat than it had seemed. Apparently, when the Germans saw Rashid Ali's coming collapse in Iraq, they pulled out of Syria, hoping to remove any pretext for a British attack. Syria could wait until they had achieved victory in Russia. They had expended their airborne forces in Crete, and could not use them in Syria.

The British occupation of Syria took five weeks. The French in Syria hated the Free French, and shot at them, even when there was supposed truce, and abused prisoners. The British forces opposing the Vichy troops were an odd-assortment of units, with no cohesion. The air support at the start was meager:

No.11 Squadron (Blenheim IVs), short on aircraft and crews
No.80 Squadron (Hurricanes)
No.3 Squadron RAAF (requipping with Tomahawks)
No.208 Army Cooperation Squadron (one flight of Hurricanes)
X Flight (Gladiators)

The Vichy airforce was much larger. They had 30 bombers and 60 fighters, and these were quickly doubled with arrivals from metropolitan France.

General Wilson commanded the operation. The French were led by General Dentz, the governor. He was located in Beirut, so General Wilson decided to mount an attack there. The 7th Australian Division attacked on the coastal road and on the central road. C Battalion of the Special Service Brigade was attached to the 7th Australian Division. There were also additional units from the 1st Cavalry Division and 6th Australian Division. The right advance was spear-headed by the 5th Indian Brigade, battle-tested veterans. The Free French would follow them. The naval forces included "the 15th Cruiser Squadron (Phoebe, Ajax, with the Coventry, the landing ship Glengyle and eight destroyers). The Vichy French had the destroyers Guipard and Valmy at Beirut.

This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Operation Exporter

General Wavell presented the plan for Operation Exporter, the occupation of Syria, to his superiors at home. The assault would be made by two brigades of the 7th Australian Division, "the Free French troops", and "part of the 1st Cavalry Division". General Wavell actually thought that more would be needed, but what was in the plan was all that was available. The Defence Committee told General Wavell to mount the attack and soon as the forces were ready. He could invite the Turks to occupy Aleppo, if they chose. The final attack force consisted of the following units:

7th Australian Division (two brigades)
2 cavaly regiments from the 1st Cavalry Division
5th Indian Brigade
a Free French force commanded by Genral Legentilhomme
with 6 battalions, one artillery battery, and several tanks
one squadron of armoured cars
one light AA regiment
one heavy AA regiment
one field regiment, RA
C Battalion of the Special Service Brigade (a commando)

This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

Amazon Ad