Tuesday, June 23, 2015
-The attack on Palmyra on 21 June 1941
Habforce (I suppose that the Hab came from Habbaniyah) was to advance on Palmyra and take the place. This was the ruins of an ancient city. Habforce included British cavalry and Arab Legion troops. They started off on 21 June 1941 and hoped to take Palmyra that day. Generals Wavell and Auchinleck were involved in the planning. To the south of the old city was a "salt pan" said to be impassible. There were thought to be three companies in possession of Palmyra. Two were French Foreign Legion. One cavalry regiment would take the hills to the west. Another regiment would move until they could enter the ancient city from the north. The over-optimistic plans were disrupted by Vichy French air attacks on the force. They were also held up by machine gun fire on the southwest corner. The commander, Major-General Clark asks the command in Jerusalem for help. They needed air protection. What was sent were some nine Gladiator biplane fighters, but there was no way to maintain a protected air field, so they left the area. Air attacks continued to June 23 and 24, and many vehicles were destroyed. The situation was such that they were running short of supplies. Rebel Arabs and French armored cars waited for supply columns to arrive. One of the British commanders, Brigadier Kingstone, collapsed on 24 June. Major Gooch took command in his place. By 28 June, a British bombing attack hit the French and Tomahawk escorts from No.3 Squadron RAAF shot down six French bombers. 1/Essex took one strong point, the "chateau". The French defenders of Palmyra continued to hold out. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.