Wednesday, July 09, 2014
The force to occupy Syria in 1941
The primary unit that would attack and occupy Syria was the 7th Australian Division. Up until June 1941, the division had not seen combat. They had formed in April and May 1940 and then was primarily training. Since April 1941, the division had been at Mersa Matruh. They had been holding the fortress and improving the defences while under fairly constant air attack. The British liked to use brigades and battalions as independent units, so the 7th Australian Division had units removed and added over time. In May and June, the division only had two brigades, the 21st and the 25th. The 7th Australian Divisional Cavalry regiment was in Cyprus, so the 7th Division was given the 6th Australian Divisional Cavalry Regiment, who were veterans. The 6th Australian Division had been a victim of the policy of scattering units that continued into 1942. Only when Bernard Law Montgomery arrived on the scene was there a push to stop the practice. The other units that were to attack Syria were the 5th Indian Brigade, which had been involved in the campaign in East Africa, the Free French, along with some smaller units. The air force included fighters, bombers, and an Army Cooperation Squadron. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.