Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Australian Situation in Late June 1941 in the Middle East

The Australian forces in the Middle East had been heavily depleted in the Greek, Crete, and now the Syrian/Lebanon campaigns. Brigadier Steven's 21st Brigade in Lebanon consisted of just two battalions, which were both under strength. In late June, they were trying to keep some pressure on the French with the units that they had. They were helped out by some Spanish deserters from the French Foreign Legion who brought mules with them. While Stevens was visiting Brigadier Berryman's headquarters, he met General Wavell, and told him that he was unable to get 3-inch mortar bombs, although British units were receiving them. Wavell took immediate action and had 320 bombs each per Australian battalion. They gradually received reinforcements from Palestine, but they were most committed to rebuilding the battalions lost in Crete, while battalions that had lost men in Greece and Crete were getting replacements for their losses.

The 21st Brigade kept pushing north. The only place where they had seen French troops was at the high point on the right that overlooked the Damour Gorge. Then on 27 June 1941, a patrol was fired on by machine guns from Hill 394 and took a casualty. By now, the Australians often received French artillery fire from north of the river at Damour. The commander of the 2/27th Battalion with a company commander, scouted around Hill 394. They thought that they might take the hill at night. They captured the hill after midnight. The men on the hill would hide during daylight on the side away from the French and would be on top at night. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

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