Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Greatly reduced Australian battalions on 9 and 10 July 1941 in Syria and Lebanon

During the afternoon of 9 July 1941, the 21st Australian Brigade was ordered to take "Abey and Kafr Matta" while the 17th Brigade was to advance on Beirut. When men from the 2/27th Battalion entered Abey and were near Daqoun, they found that the French had pulled back from the area. The 2/14th Battalion was to hold the area near Abey, Kafr Matta, along with Hill 903. They also were to block the road to Beirut. When Brigadier Savige, of the 17th Brigade, had moved north through Damour and made contact with Lt-Col. King of the 2/5th Battalion. Savige was unsure of what he should do next, and traveled to the 7th Division headquarters to get guidance. The 2/5th Battalion found themselves in a poor position, so he ordered a move north for about two miles. They reached their new position by 4:20am on 10 July. The 2/5th Battalion was by this time reduced to companies of 45 men or less. They had also moved so far that they were running short of phone wire for signals. Brigadier Savige arrived later in the morning of 10 July. He had Lt-Col. King move his men to the next ridge near Khalde. The 2/5th now had better artillery support. They were in company with the 2/5th Field Regiment and had a group of 6-inch howitzers from the British 7th Medium Regiment. The Australians had a fire plan for a new attack that would start at 3:30m on 10 July. They would have a barrage move forward of the advancing troops. They reached the French road block and block house. One platoon was held up by French mortar fire and machine guns. The 6th Cavalry came forward in support and had cleared the area in front of the road block. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

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