Tuesday, July 29, 2014
The reasoning behind General Wilson's plan for the Australians in Syria and Lebanon in 1941
Monday, July 28, 2014
Why did Churchill have so much confidence in Henry Maitland Wilson?
I wondered about the relationship between General Henry Maitland Wilson and Winston Churchill. After he came to power, Churchill kept calling on a select few men to command. My impression is that they were men he personally knew in some way or at least had grown to have some confidence in them. Henry Maitland Wilson was one of the those, just as Bernard Freyberg was.
It is easy to lose sight of Churchill's military service. He was involved in Africa prior to 1900 and then served in the Great War from early on, at Antwerp, and finished the war. Winston Churchill was both an inspirational leader and a menace. From late 1940 until 1942, we see a lot of Churchill as menace. The later CIGS, Alan Brooke, called Churchill a menace, as he was intimately involved in planning and operations for the latter part of the war. The campaign in Greece was an early example of Churchill as menace. He chose his buddy, Henry Maitland Wilson, to command in Greece. What we saw in Vol.II of the Australian Official History was that General Wilson and his staff were substandard and were the cause of men going into captivity when they should have been withdrawn.
General Wilson is again involved with the Syria and Lebanon campaign. The Australian Official History, Volume II, again makes a case that his judgement and staff work were not what were needed. The Australians had to work hard to compensate for the lack of support that they received from Wilson and his staff. The basic plan for Syria was flawed, in that a short time after the operation began, the Australian General Lavarack was to take over as the commander. The Australians again thought that could have been done prior to the start.
From our knowledge of Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty, we suspect that he was all about people, relationships, and bold ideas. From June 1940 on to July 1941, we don't see anything to change or minds about him.
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
The Australian Plans for the occupation of Syria
The 7th Australian Division would have three objectives. One was to move to a "line from Merdjayoun along the road to Sidon." The second objective was another line. This one was formed by a line drawn through "Rasheiya, Machrhara, Jezzine, and Sidon." The last objective was the road from Rayak to Beirut. One brigade, the 21st would be in Beirut. The other, the 25th, would hold the airfield at Rayak. There were also the two battalions from the 6th Division. They would be relegated to holding prisoners and providing police for the areas that would be captured.
Only one June 5, 1941 was General Lavarack officially informed that when they had reached the first objective, he would take command of a I Australian Corps and command the entire operation. The logical thing, from the Australian perspective, would have been to give him the command from the beginning, but that was rejected. The 16th Brigade commander, Brigadier Allen would be promoted to command the 7th Australian Division when Lavarack became the Corps commander. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
The invasion force for Syria and Lebanon in June 1941
7th Australian Division (Major-General Lavarack) 21st Brigade (2/14, 2/16, 2/17 battalions) 25th Brigade (2/25, 2/11, 2/33 battalions) Division troops 6th Australian Division Cavalry Regiment 9th Australian Division Cavalry Regiment 2/4 Field Regiment 2/5 Field Regiment 2/6 Field Regiment 2/2 Anti-Tank Regiment 2/3 Battalion 2/5 Battalion 2/3 MG Battalion 2/3 Pioneer Battalion one composite mechanized unit from the Greys and Staffordshire Yeomanry one squadron of the Royals (armoured cars) 57th Light AA Regiment 5th Indian Brigade Group (Brigadier Lloyd) 5th Indian Brigade (1/Royal Fusiliers, 3/1 Punjab, 4/6 Rajput Rifles) 1 field regiment 1 battery RAA 1 troop LAA Free French Division (General Legentilhomme) Brigade d'Orient (1 B.M. battalion, 2 B.M. battalion, Foreign Legion) 1 battery artillery (4-75mm guns) 1 tank company (9 tanks) 1 anti-tank company company Marine fusiliers Circassian Cavalry (300 men) Force troops
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Syria and Lebanon: A typical General Wilson operation
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Discussions about augmenting the 7th Australian Division for the Syrian occupation in 1941
Wednesday, July 09, 2014
The force to occupy Syria in 1941
Monday, July 07, 2014
What the Attackers Faced in Syria in 1941
General Wavell would have not wanted to attack Syria so soon after Greece and Crete. His forces were in disarray and Syria might have been a tough region to take. Syrla was a fairly large area, stretching for some 300 miles both north and south and east and west. The French forces in Syrla and Lebanon were larger and were better equipped than any force that Wavell could field. The would-be occupiers would have to deal with mountains and deserts. The French General Headquarters was located in Beirut, Lebanon. A railroad ran from Beirut through to Damascus, Syria. The British would have to decide if they would go north along the coast, of if they would try the mountain roads, or if they would cut across the desert.
The defenders had six regiments, including a Foreign Legion unit. There was another mixed regiment of colonial and metropolitan troops. There were also four regiments of African native troops. Of the cavalry, there were 9,000 men, some of which were mechanized and some where on horseback. As for artillery, they had 90 field and medium guns. There were about 10,000 troops from Syria and Lebanon, but they were thought to be unreliable. General Dentz was the overall commander, with a deputy commander. There were also three regional commanders at Damascus, Beirut, and Aleppo. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.