Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Back to Jezzine from 6 July 1941

The 25th Australian Brigade had started to make progress at Jezzine while the battle for Damour was being fought. From 6 July 1941, the 2/31st Battalion moved north to Beit ed Dine. The 2/31st had advanced to Niha and beyond by early 7 July. The Cheshire Yeomanry was also active and had taken some French prisoners in Mrousti. They had talked with a Swiss member of the French Foreign Legion who told them that the French had withdrawn from Bater because of the intensity of the artillery fire. The current commander of the 25th Brigade, Brigadier Plant, ordered the left battalion group (because they included artillery) to take Beiqoun and Mazraat ech Chouf. One company was to take the commanding heights near Mazraat ech Chouf. The 2/25th Battalion with support from the 2/6th Field Regiment would move north. By 3pm on 8 July, they started to receive French artillery fire. They called in artillery support from the 2/6th Field Regiment. One platoon then was attacked by African troops. By 7pm, one platoon was in an exposed position and had taken casualties. The platoon was withdrawn, leaving the French in possession of the high ground. To the east, a company of the 2/31st Battalion was attacked twice on 8 July. Their losses left them with only 20 men. By 4:30, they were reinforced by an 18 man platoon from another hill. One company of the 2/25th Battalion tried to take Hill 1054 from the French. The attackers were left in exposed positions and were unable to move. Fortunately, some of the Pioneers came up in support. Men with Bren guns were able to take out three French machine guns. Artillery fire was called in. The guns fired for about 50 minutes and then the Australians charged the French with fixed bayonets. The French broke and ran. The French withdrew in confusion, but the Australians had lost communication with their artillery. Otherwise, they could have taken out the French vehicles. That withdrawal left the Australians on the heights at Mazraat ech Chouf. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

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