Wednesday, July 01, 2015

The aftermath of the attack on Merdjayoun on 19 June 1941

Brigadier Berryman issued an order at 4:30pm on 19 June 1941 that could not be execute. He wanted to issue sticky bombs to the 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion and the 2/25th Battalion. There was not enough time to issue the sticky bombs. The idea was that there must just be five tanks at Merdjayoun, and they could be destroyed. After the tanks were knocked out, the pioneers would take the fort and then the town. The 2/25th Battalion was greatly depleted. The survivors were scattered. 25 men were known to have been killed and some sixty were wounded. However, there were another 73 men missing, of which many were found to have been killed or wounded. The French attacked at dusk and pushed back the Australians. Communications were lost, but some men were able to hold their ground. Eventually, the battalion was withdrawn to the Litani river. The French had made a strong defense and the tanks gave them an advantage that the Australians could not counter.

Brigadier Berryman proposed a new plan of attack. We have previously heard of "Route A" and "Route B". The Australian artillery dominated Route B, so Berryman decided to go after Route A. He would move guns to Ibeles Saki. The ground was very rough with rocks, so he hoped that would offer protection from the French tanks. Brigdier Berryman presented his plan to Generals Lavarack and Allen on 22 June. They gave their approval for the attack. The 2/33rd Battalion had been active on the eastern side. They were actively patrolling and found that Fort Khiam and the village had been abandoned as had Bmeriq. A new twist included horsed cavalry. We might recall that they had captured cavalry horses from the French. The 6th Cavalry was able to find men with suitable experience. They got packs and saddles from Palestine, so that the forty men and horses could function. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

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