Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Taking Merdjayoun on 11 June 1941

On 11 June 1941, the Australian gunners had a sense that the French were staging a withdrawal. The commander of the 2/6th Field Regiment volunteered to go forward and negotiate with the French. Right before 1pm, he had not reached the fort, so he pulled back, knowing that the plan was for a barrage at 1pm. The artillery commanders agreed to cancel the planned barrage and tried to notify the advancing troops. The infantry was already advancing and reached the fort, which they found had been abandoned. The civilians living in Merdjayoun emerged from hiding and told the Australians that the French had withdrawn. The people living there were mostly Orthodox Christians. As the Australians entered the town, the residents raised the flag of Lebanon. The road north to Merdjayoun was mined, so the engineers were busy removing the mines. The more senior officers started to arrive. They included Brigadier Berryman, the artillery commander, General Allen and Brigadier Cox. By later on 11 June, the 2/25th Battalion was north of Ibeles. The other battalions were also far advanced. The 2/33rd was now north of Khiam. The third battalion, the 2/31st, was at Merdjayoun. In the afternoon of 11 June, the engineers had advanced to the bridge over the Litani river to the southwest of Merdjayoun. The bridge had been blown and a large crater had been blown in the road leading to the bridge. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official history.

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