Wednesday, March 18, 2015

15 June 1941 near Merdjayoun

Captain Bennett commanded a company of the Australian 2/33rd Battalion. since the start of the campaign in Syria and Lebanon, Captain Bennett's company had spent much of the time near Merdjayoun. On 15 June 1941, they were moving north and "passed through Rachaya el Fokhar" as they moved towards Christofini. They heard from the local people that the French had been using a fort at Christofini. There had been fifty man groups moving in and out of the fort. They later learned enough to believe that the French had withdrawn earlier on the 15th after receiving artillery fire. Captain Bennett had decided to wait to move towards the fort until 16th.

Another company of the 2/33rd Battalion was moving towards Hebbariye. Major Buttrose commanded this company. They had donkeys to carry their "heavy weapons and ammunition". They quickly found that they donkeys could not handle the steep slopes, so the men had to carry the weapons and ammunition. They also reached Rachaya el Fokhar, where they met an Arab who spoke English and had lived in the United States. He told them he would guide them down the cliff face towards Hebbariye. They reached that village by 11:30am. They heard at 3pm from a "friendly Arab" that the French "knew where they were". Major Buttrose, in response, moved his company down below the village. That proved a wise move, because the French had started firing artillery at the area where they had been above the village. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official history.

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