Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The fighting in Syria and Lebanon ended at midnight of 11 to 12 July 1941

To the east, the fighting overlapped the armistice at midnight of 11 to 12 July 1941. The cavalry had sent out patrols to the west from the 6th and 7th of July. The 4th Cavalry Brigade was actually on the move on 11 July. The Brigadier was attacked on 12 July, nominally after the armistice. After the armistice, when the French records became available, the British were able to learn more about the defending French forces near the end. When the initial attack at Damour started, the Vichy French had about seven battalions defending Damour and Jezzine. A similar-sized force held Merdjayoun and Jebel Mazar. There were also two battalions holding Jebel Druse. Just as the Australian battalions were short of men, the French battalions were also short. The French battalions were between 250 and 450 men when the fighting stopped. That would put them stronger than many of the Australians, which were very shot of men. During the fighting at Damour, two units were pulled out, which left a cavalry regiment and three battalions holding the road to Beirut from Damascus. The French said that they took 194 men prisoner during the initial attack at Jebel Mazar. The second attack quickly came to a stop. To achieve that, the French took heavy losses, enough to cause the French general to order a withdrawal to a further line to the north. The French showed in the fighting that they had good troops who were well-led, even if the troops were Senegalese. We have constantly suspected that Churchill had ordered the attack on Syria and Lebanon, hoping for a cheap victory to aid his political fortunes after a very difficult first six months of the year. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

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