Monday, May 18, 2015
The sacrifice of the 5th Indian Brigade was not in vain-plans change on 20 June 1941
One result of the 5th Indian Brigade advance to Mezze was that the plans for the campaign changed on 20 June 1941. General Evetts was the 6th Infantry Division commander. Interestingly enough, General Evetts was an old Middle Easterrn hand. He had commanded the 16th Infantry Brigade in Palestine from 1935 until 1939. This was during a period of unrest with the Arabs in revolt. On 19 June, he was appointed to command the attack on Damascus. He had all Australian, British, and Indian formations east of Merdjayoun under his command. He also had the Free French under his command, although they were considered to be not reliable. Once General Lavarack heard about having General Evetts and his men, he requested that he be given the 16th Brigade, rather than sending it to the coast for the advance on Beirut. General Wilson gave permission with the condition that the Damascus attack be concluded quickly. General Lavarack had his chief of staff consult with General Allen, of the 7th Australian Division, and asked if he could hold on with two brigades. He said that he could, so they diverted the 16th Brigade to the attack on Damascus. The deal was that once Damascus was taken, some of the force would be sent back to the coast for the attack on Beirut. By the end of 20 June, the force in the east consisted of the remnants of the 5th Indian Brigade and the 16th Brigade. There were also three more battalions that replaced the depleted 5th Indian Brigade units. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.