Monday, July 13, 2015

The attack on Col's Ridge fails from 27 June 1941

The plan for Col's Ridge was to attack from the north. A Pioneer company moved forward at 2am on 27 June 1941. The Pioneers reached the creek at the base of the ridge. After 4am, a creeping artillery barrage was preceding the infantry. The barrage was moved forward 50 yards at a time. Three platoons were set to advance up the hill. Right before they reached their objective, they were fired on by machine guns and mortars. They were taking losses, but were able to rush to the knoll. One platoon was going to settle on the hill, when they saw a large force of French infantry in front and on the left. They could see French artillery about a mile in the distance. The incoming French fire was getting heavier, as the artillery barrage had stopped. Many officers were killed in by the heavy French fire. They could see a large attack forming on the left. The Australians were running low on ammunition. There were few survivors of the Australian attackers, perhaps as few as 12. Lt-Col. Monaghan realized that the attack had failed and he called in artillery fire to support the survivors. The men moved back to the starting line and formed a defensive position. There had been two French battalions defending the hill. They had withdrawn while the artillery barrage was fired, but then returned to their positions. In the dark, Staff Sergeant Peeler searched for Captain Camm's body. Peeler had earned a Victoria Cross in the Great War in 1917. During the next night, and on the next day, the 2/King's Own Royal Regiment relieved the front line companies of the Australian 2/33rd Battalion. The Australian rifle companies had been in action for the last three weeks. The companies were reduced to 50 to 65 men. The French had built up their force at Merdjayoun to five battalions. They included on Foreign legion, one Tunisian, and three Algerian battalions. By late on 29 June, Brigadier Berryman returned to his duties in charge of the 7th Australian Division artillery. He was replaced by Brigadier Galloway, who we know well from the Western Desert in Egypt. In June 1941, he commanded the British 23rd Brigade. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

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