Thursday, August 20, 2015

From 3 to 5 July in Syria and Lebanon

By 11:30am on 4 July 1941, the Pioneers attacked Mtoulle. They had taken fire, but by afternoon, they held the village, for that was what Mtoulle was. Before this, in the late afternoon of 3 July, an Australian company moved north and east towards Rharife. By the 5th, they had occupied Rharife. During the day on 4 July, the French could be seen withdrawing towards the northeast from Mtoulle. Brigadier Plant, of the 25th Australian Brigade, got his orders from General Allen to exploit the French withdrawal. By 5 July, the 2/31st Battalion, located east of the gorge, was scouting to the north along the road from Jezzine. To the west, the 2/25th was holding a line that included Rharife and Mtoulle. At a higher level, General Lavarack reacted by ordering the British 6th Division to increase their activity both at Damascus and Merdjayoun. He hoped that would indicate to the French that the division was going to attack. ON 3 July, the 6th Division had been situated with the 16th Brigade on the road to Beirut. The remains of the 5th Indian Brigade was holding a position north of Qatana. The 23rd Brigade was at Merdjayoun and Khiam. The 1/Royal Fusiliers (reconstituted) were in the forts near the Beirut road. They had the 9th Australian Cavalry in readiness to respond to any attacks. A yeomanry cavalry unit was on Mount Hermon, near Chebaa. 3 July also saw the French surrender at Palmyra. There were 165 men, mostly not French, as they were from the French Foreign Legion. Another group at T3 surrendered on 4 July. They had been sufficient to defend against a large force, mostly cavalry, for some twelve days. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

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