Thursday, August 13, 2015

Looking for river crossing points near Damour in late June early July 1941

Brigadier Stevens of the 21st Australian Brigade wanted to find a suitable river crossing on the right of his position in Lebanon near Damour. This was during 30 June and 1 July 1941. Stevens wanted to avoid a direct attack, so he wanted to go around the eastern flank, if possible. Some Australians had scouted around the concrete bridge that was guarded by French sentries. One platoon, led by Lieutenant Sims, made an incursion across the river below the bridge. They had set out at 8pm on 1 July and returned at 6am on 3 July. These patrols from the 2/27th Battalion found a way to the El Mourhira hill. A company could make the trek in about four hours, they found. The 2/16th Battalion was on the left, and had looked for crossing points over the river. The French were more concerned about the left, and there was more fighting. They patrolled the area during the nights up to 5 July and gained information from French prisoners. Starting from 26 June, the navy came up in support and fired on French targets that had been identified. Brigadier Stevens had kept his battalions back so that they would avoid casualties from the French artillery fire. Brigadier Stevens had developed his plan over the course of feeling out the French positions. He was reinforced by a third battalion and then the 17th Brigade, commanded by Brigadier Savige, joined. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

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