Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The other action in Syria on 15 and 16 June 1941

With the forces in the east threatening Damascus, Brigadier Lloyd had decided to press on despite the setbacks to the west, in his rear. On 15 June 1941, he had ordered the 5th Indian Brigade to move forward to Jebel Madani. That happened during the night. Early on 16 June, the Punjabi troops had taken the heights, from which they could see the skyline of Damascus, minarets and all. The distance was about nine miles. The Rajputana had been relieved by a Free French unit. That allowed them to pass through the lines and move forward along the Kuneitra road. They were about two miles to the south. The Free French Marines had moved up to them in support. They were faced by a heavy attack that included tanks and aircraft that caused many casualties. These moves had placed forces at Artouz, which was in the rear of the French forces at Kuneitra.

16 June saw a successful action in the Merdjayoun area. One company was ordered to withdraw from Hebbariye to the road from Bmeriq to Banias. The men at Fort Christofini were also ordered to withdraw. In the morning on 16 June, there was a battle against Circassian cavalry. The Australian troops circled the village at Rachaya el Fokhar. The men from the fort saw the fight from a distance and the commander ordered them down the hill into the flank of the French cavalry. They killed some fifty French cavalrymen and then took up defensive positions. They were eventually ordered to withdraw to Bmeriq. The one battalion had acquired 34 fine cavalry horses for their use. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

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