Wednesday, November 07, 2018

The move to Syria in January 1942

Teams of men left Palestine for Syria on 9 January 1942. The main bodies of units left Palestine starting on 11 January and kept leaving until 18 January. The trips were through very cold, winter weather. They convoys carried men in open trucks, so that they were exposed to the cold. They drove north along the coast road, first to Tripoli. The mountains could be seen in the distance with snow on the peaks.
The 20th Brigade was first to move north. The 2/17th Battalion arrived at Tripoli on 13 January. They immediately continued onwards to Afrine. Afrine was about 20 miles north-northwest of Aleppo. The 2/13th Battalion drove to Latakia as well as "two frontier outposts". Their fellow battalion, the 2/15th, arrived the day after the 2/13th. There was a barracks for them at Idlib, as well some "tin huts". Two of the companies ended up traveling to Aleppo, where the 20th Brigade headquarters was located.
Components of the 24th Brigade came to Tripoli on 15 and 16 January 1942. They put the brigade headquarters at Madjlaya. The 9th Division headquarters was established in Tripoli on 16 January 1942. Brigadier Tovell was temporarily commanding the division. General Morshead was absent, as he was visiting I Australian Corps at Aley. He stayed until General Lavarack traveled to Lake Tiberius to travel by flying boat to the Far East on 19 January. General Morshead was acting as corps commander and traveled to Broumane to 9th Army Headquarters.
The rest of the 9th Australian Division arrived at Tripoli. This was the 26th Brigade, which came to Tripoli on 18 and 19 January 1942. Most of the aritllery also arrived in the area with other division-level units.
The British took Syria to prevent the Germans from pushing between Turkey and Palestine. The British were still concerned about a possible German attack by way of Turkey. The Russian successes in couter-attacking the Germans during the winter helped to ease the concerns, but they were still present. Winston Churchill wrote to President Roosevelt to present his views of the situation. He wrote the paper in December 1941. Churchill's summary said that while there was still a German threat against the Middle East oil fields, that the threat was diminished. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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