Thursday, April 23, 2015

17 and 18 June 1941 in Syria

The Australian 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion was performing important work, helping to hold back the Vichy French counterattack. One company of machine gunners, commanded by Captain Gordon had been sent towards Kuneitra, which had been taken by the French. During the morning of 17 June 1941, Captain Gordon learned that two battalions were on the way to support his company. The first battalion to arrive, the 2/Queen's, arrived by 5pm. The battalion commander was senior and he took command at the position. He planned an attack at 7pm. They attacked Kuneitra and retook the town. The town was littered with knocked out and overturned vehicles. Yet, after all that, the populace was trying to return to normal and there were shops open for business.

Meanwhile, at Sheikh Meskine, the force there was enduring hard fighting. Early on 18 June, a company attacked Ezraa, but the French attacked with tanks and the battalion commander was killed. A notable event happened when Major Hackett, "a young Australian serving in the British regular army" led and attack with a motley force of 100 men in trucks and took the town. They captured 168 prisoners. They also took various weapons. Hackett's men included Senegalese, 12 men from the Royal Fusiliers, several carriers, along with an anti-tank gun (certainly a 2pdr). This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

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