Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Once the Australians realized that the French had withdrawn from Damour and surrounding positions, they exploited the situation. By 7am on 9 July 1941, men from the 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion and the 2/16th Battalion met Captain Noonan's company from the 2/14th Battalion. This was on the northeast side of Damour. The 6th Cavalry and some Pioneers moved up to Karacol. The roadblock on the road to Beirut now was held by two companies from the 2/5th Battalion. A local Lebanese told someone on Brigadier Savige's staff that the French had pulled out of Abey. This was to the east. They sent word to General Allen, the 7th Australian Division commander of the situation.
Brigadier Berryman had arrived back in the west from Merdjayoun to resume his role as the 7th Division artillery commander. The commander of the 2/5th Field Regiment had driven north for 3-1/2 miles to a roadblock. Two tanks from the 6th Cavalry were held by the roadblock. Brigadier Berryman gave orders for continued movement to the north and informed the division headquarters of his actions. There was a situation now that the division commander had told the 17th Brigade not to advance until he issued orders. Men with guns from the 2/5th Field Regiment moved quickly north. The guns that were farthest north were around Karacol. They were drawn into a duel with French guns, firing over open sights. From this position, they were also able to shell the southern edge of Beirut. The situation was rather chaotic, and needed someone to bring the situation under control. That task was given to Brigadier Savige, of the 17th Brigade. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.
Monday, September 21, 2015
The situation on 8 July 1941 near Damour was that the town was being threatened on three sides. There were three Australian battalions involved. The 2/5th blocked the road out of Damour to the north. On the northeastern side, the 2/14th Battalion was in position. Then there were the 2/2nd Pioneers "moving up from the south". Artillery support had to be carefully coordinated so as to not shoot at Australians while firing in support. At 5pm, Colonel Chapman brought orders from the division commander, General Allen, proposing that the 21st Brigade would have responsibility for "the area south of the Wadi Daqoun". Brigadier Savige's 17th Brigade would move north along the coast road. The 21st Brigade would move eastward towards Abey. By 7:30pm on 88 July, there were reports of French movement. This was to the north east. During the day on 8 July, two companies were near Damour on the east side. There was some concern that there might be a danger of accidentally firing on Australians.
8 July was a time spent by the 2/16th Battalion on the ridges at Mar Midhail and El Atiqa. They were gradually making themselves more secure. In the morning, three tanks from the 6th Cavalry (probably the captured French R-35 tanks) crossed the river. The 2/2Pioneers were moving north to a point about a mile north from the river. The French were still strong in the banana plantation. One tank caught by a French 75mm gun was knocked out. The 2/5th Field Regiment fired in support and knocked out the French gun. Brigadier Stevens decided to withdraw the men and call in artillery fire on the French. Some ground had been lost on the 8th, but during the night, the Pioneers took back what had been lost and were. A troop of the 6th Cavalry was able to drive through Damour by 4am and they had the town. They found that during the night, the French had withdrawn from where they had been fighting. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.
Sunday, September 20, 2015
We are now at daybreak on 8 July 1941 with the 2/3rd Battalion. They were on the Kheurbet el Biar ridge. They started to receive French artillery and mortar fire as the day got light. They could see French artillery in the distance, where the wadi cut the hill. By 6am, Captain Parbury could see Australians at Deir Mar Jorjos. At that news, the 2/3rd moved forward to the heights that they were to take. The commander ordered Porbury to tkane hill 569 on the right. He sent a platoon which came under machine gun fire. The Australians were tired and without water. They were able to move along and reached one knoll on the summit. They could see five French field guns some five hundred yards away. By late on the 9th, in the afternoon, they took the guns. They were then in the village.
Meanwhile, the 2/5th was at the wadi near Deir Mar Jorjos. This was just at midnight in the night of 7 to 8 July. The first men to arrive came under fire, but were able to take four 75mm guns and 8 machine guns. By 3am, they were in Deir Mar Jorjos. Just before En Naame, they took the high ground. From there some men entered the village and took "a French colonel of the Foreign Legion and his staff". By 8am, an artillery captain was able to get his 15 mile long wire into the village. That allowed the commander to speak with Brigadier Savige. By dawn on 8 July, they started to receive mortar fire. A small group was sent to take the bridge. There men with two Thompson sub-machine guns and a Bren gun. The bold attack caused the French to flee the bridge. When Lt-Col. King saw a French counterattack forming, he called in artillery fire, which broke the attack, so that the men all ran. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.
Friday, September 18, 2015
The 2/16th Battalion had a fairly quite day on 7 July 1941 in Lebanon. They found that the French had withdrawn from the El Atiqa ridge. The area had banana plantations and they were cleared. The engineers put a bridge over the river that allowed vehicles to cross. By afternoon, there were two companies of pioneers and three tanks in the plantation area.
In the 2/27th Battalion's area, the action heated up into an intense battle. The French had moved on the east slope of Hill 560. One company was sent to push the French off the hill. Captain Lee's company came under heavy fire and was stopped. After midnight, into 8 July, they had pushed close to the French. They thought that by daylight, the French would surrender. The battle continued and Captain Lee's headquarters came under attack at Er Roumane. The battalion commander committed just about his entire force into the battle. When they took some French prisoners, they learned that the attackers were from the I/French Foreign Legion and one company from the 29th Algerians. The Algerians had been shipped in from France in a roundabout route that came through Greece. Lt.Col. Moten, the commander, made his way forward with an artillery observer. He arrived with the forward troops at 5am on 8 July. They discovered that the French had withdrawn in the night. The attacking Australians had considerable losses, so that companies were now platoon-size. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Wednesday, September 09, 2015
While Lt-Col. King of the 2/5th Battalion had hoped to wait until the next day to attack, Brigadier Savige decided that the men needed to move forward to Deir Mar Jorjos that night, rather than waiting. Three lines of men moved across the wadi, single file. They reformed into a more normal formation once they had crossed. As the sun was setting, the men moved across the Wadi Daqoun. They had to be careful crossing the steep slopes. The men were so tired that when they stopped to rest, the men fell asleep. The 2/5th moved through the position where the 2/3rd Battalion was located. Major Stevenson, commanding the 2/3rd Battalion wanted to stay in place, because he was concerned with the possibility of accidentally fighting the 2/5th Battalion in the dark.
All day long on 7 July 1941, the 2/14th Battalion was moving to the west, where they would move into Damour on the east side. They would make connection with the 2/2nd Pioneers. They advanced untii they were 400 yards from Damour and stopped for two hours. One company on the ridge to the south ran into French troops with machine guns. The commander had asked for mortars to fire in the machine guns, but got two Vickers machine guns from the 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion. They quickly dominated the French guns so that the infantry was able to advance. Men from another Australian battalion, the 2/27th, attacked the French from the southwest. They had been pinned down by machine gun fire, but a runner had alerted an artillery observer, who called in fire on the French. By sunset on the 7th, the French defenses were starting to disintegrate. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.