Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Action at Kuneitra and Merdjayoun on 14 and 15 June 1941

A deserver from the Vichy French asserted that the French planned to attack Kuneitra on 15 June 1941 with two infantry battalions and tanks. In the face of what was happening, there were some shifting of command and units. A battle group was formed at Merdjayoun under the command of Lt-Col. Monaghan. He had his battalion, the 2/33rd, the 6th Australian Cavalry Regiment, an artillery battery, and some anti-tank guns and engineers. There were also the Royal Scots Greys and 2/2nd Pioneers under General Lavarack. The pioneers had their headquarters near the Litani River crossing. Lt-Col. Monaghan took the risk of sending three companies in a flanking attack on the advancing French forces near the foothills of Mount Hermon. At least some of the Australians knew the area well and were liked by the Syrian villagers, who were willing to give them information. There was a fort at Christofini that was occupied by French cavalry. One company planned to attack the fort on 16 June, although the French had likely abandoned the fort on 15 June. There was a concerted French attack north of Merdjayoun at the area named the "Windy Corner". Australian anti-tank guns were in action and knocked out the lead tank, which discouraged the others, causing them to pull back. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

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