Monday, September 29, 2014

Attacking Fort Khiam on 8 JUne 1941

As the 2/33rd Battalion moved north, they approached the village of Khiam. Guarding the village was a classic-looking fort. One company, that of Captain Ferguson, was stopped by fire from Khiam and Bmeriq. The battalion commander, Lt-Colonel Monaghan, ordered Captain Cotton, another company commander, to take the fort at Khiam. The French waited while the Australians moved forward and then started firing when they were about 300 yards away. The Australians were able to move forward to within fifty yards of the fort. A small group actually reached the wall of the fort. They climbed the fort's wall and jumped down.. The leader fired his sub-machine gun. A French machine gun on the other side of the fort returned fire and caused the men to have to go under cover. They sought cover in the fort's bastion, where some French men joined them, saying that they wanted to join De Gaulle's force. With some help from the men outside, the men inside made a hole in the wall. Captain Cotton wanted to attack through the hole in the fort, but the fort was so strongly defended, that he decided to wait for the next morning to attack again. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The 2/33rd Australian Battalion early on 8 June 1941 in Syria

Lt-Colonel Monaghan's battalion, the 2/33rd, ended up split into companies that had their individual objectives at the start of the invasion of Syria and Lebanon on 8 June 1941. Since we are talking about locations such as Kuneitra, we must be talking about Syria. Captain Bennett's company was sent off through the mountains to occupy Ferdisse. They were to cut the road just to the west. This was a move that did not immediately affect the current operations. Another company, that of Major Wright, was to take border posts and blow up the bridge to keep the French from being able to attack the flank of the column. They took Banias and blew the bridge by early afternoon on 8 June. Captain Cotton's company, further to the left, took more frontier posts. They moved off from Abd el Kamh at the start time of 2am. They reached their first French post by 3am. They lost one Australian in the fight, and the surviving 25 defenders surrendered. We should not be surprised that they were African, since this was a French colony. The defenders were largely Senegalese. One platoon from this company was to take a bridge, the Jisr Abou Zeble. This bridge was for the road from Naias to Merdjayoun. The bridge crossed the Hasbani. They took the bridge at about 4am. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The 25th Australian Brigade on the first day, 8 June 1941

The 25th Australian Brigade, commanded by Brigadier Cox, moved forward in two groups. They were to advance to Rayak and capture the place with the airfield. The right column was based on the 2/33rd Battalion. The column was actually mixed with cavalry and artillery as the main additions. Their initial objective was to cross the road from Kuneitra and block it. The left column, mainly consisting of the 1/31st Battalion. They were also a mixture of cavalry and artillery, with a little more. They were to advance to a line "from Merdjayoun to Nabatiye et Tahta". They were to hold that line against any attackers. There was apparently also British horsed cavalry in the strength of a squadron to their left. These were from the Cheshire Yeomanry. They were going to try and contact the 21st Australian Brigade at Habbouch. The 25th Brigade moved forward at 2am. These men wore steel helmets and either shorts or trousers. The 25th Brigade also had frontier posts to capture as part of the advance. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Australians later in the day on 8 June 1941

When they encountered the 80 foot hold from a demolition, the leading troops from the Australian 2/16th Battalion manhandled their trucks over the hole. By 5pm 0n 8 June 1941, the troops had met the 2/14th Battalion on the coast road. One company from the 2/14th Battalion reached Tyre, where the civilians cheered their arrival. The 21st Brigade commander, Brigadier Stevens, reached the crossroads at Tyre before the 2/16th Battalion arrived. Briigadier Stevens had walked across the demolition at Iskanaroun. Cavalrynmen from the Cheshire were crossing the countryside "between Tibnine and Kafr Sir." By the end of 8 June, the Australians were in Tyre and had reached the French line at the Litani, where it was obvious that they intended to fight. Anyone who had thought that the Vichy French in Syria and Lebanon would collapse without much of a fight were obviously mistaken. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Monday, September 15, 2014

With Brigadier Stevens of the 21st Brigade on 8 and 9 June 1941

By early on 8 June 1941, the 2/14th Battalion had moved up to the road demolition. They had the tanks from the 6th Australian Cavalry Regiment in company. The demolition had blown up a portion of the cliff about 100 feet long and 30 feet in depth. The engineers took until the next morning to repair the road. Brigadier Stevens arrived at the demolition at about 9:45am, riding in a carrier. At noontime, they managed to get an anti-tank gun across to where it could be towed by a captured French truck. Colonel Moten's column was only able to proceed the next morning. While the repair was underway, one company from the 2/14th Battalion crossed on foot. Further to the right, MacDonald's force followed that of Potts. They passed through Bennt Jbail on their way. Just before reaching Tibnine, they had to create a detour past a deep crater. They also had to clear a minefield that was part of the obstruction. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

The Royal Dragoons in June 1941

During the attack north with the 21st Australian Brigade, the 6th Australian Cavalry Regiment had two troops of armoured cars from the Royal Dragoons (variously called "the Royals" or the 1st, Royal Dragoons). We are interested in the "British" armoured cars during 1940 t0 1942, so we wondered what sort of armoured cars were employed. We noticed that one source said that the Royal Dragoons had equipped with Marmon-Herrington armoured cars in late 1940, but then had to pass them on to the 11th Hussars, the armoured car regiment of the 7th Armoured Division. The Royal Dragoons eventually were re-equipped later. In the Middle East, there had been the remnants of Rolls Royce armoured cars from the 1920's. They were based on a large touring car fitted with armour and a turret. Some of these were still in service in late 1940 and possibly into 1941. There were also a few Morris A.C.9 armoured cars in service as command cars. By June 1941, the remains of the old cars were gone, so it makes sense that the armoured car forces in Egypt and Palestine would have re-equipped with Marmon-Herrington cars. The Mk.III was a 1942 car, so what was most likely was that the Royal Dragoons in Syria would have had Marmon-Herrington Mk.II cars. They may also have had Dingo scout cars, based on what was suggested by one source. If you search for Royal Dragoons, you will find the web pages in question.

Monday, September 08, 2014

The 6th Australian Cavalry reach Tyre on 8 June 1941

A group of the 6th Australian Cavalry (the 6th Division divisional cavalry regiment) was led by Lieutenant Mills. They had been at Tibnine, which had an old Turkish castle. After learning that they would be welcome in Tyre and after being joined by two troops of armoured cars from the Royal Dragoons, they drove to Tyre. The cavalry group had 13 carriers as well as the armoured cars. As they neared Tyre, they could see British warships off the port that were being bombed by French aircraft. The ships had neared the coast at 6:45am and saw the road demolition at about 7am. Led by the armoured cars, the cavalry group reached a road block just south of Litani. The French defenders had field guns, anti-tank guns, and mortars. Two armoured cars were disabled by gunfire. The force had two field guns from the 2/4th Field Regiment, so they set up to return fire. The armoured cars were quickly damaged, so that only one remained operational. The 2/16th Battalion had sent out patrols that found that there seemed to be no French troops south of the river. As Brigadier Stevens, commanding the 21st Brigade was not hearing news about the road condition, he sent forward the 2/14th Battalion to the north, towards the demolition. That force included the tanks from the 6th Australian Cavalry regiment. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

The advance on 8 June 1941 in Syria

By 2am, the main advance along the coast road had commenced. At 5am, they had reached the French outpost at Naquora. The Australians exchanged fire with the French. After firing a mortar bomb, the Australians charged and took the post. They also took the village just beyond the outpost. Brigadier Stevens, commander of the 21st Brigade, was mounted on a carrier so he could keep track of the action and communicate with the small units. At this point, Brigadier Stevens was unaware that the road had been blown ahead of him. The hill country to the east of the coast road was very difficult. The men who were to take the Labouna post were late due to their guide being lost. They reached Labouna about 5:30am and took the post. To the east, a company of the 2/14th took a village, Alma Chaab. The initial objective, the three outputs were in Australian hands by 7am on 8 June 1941. To the east, the 2/16th Battalion made progress. They were to attack Bennt Jbail, a village, and then take Ain Ebel, beyond. When they arrived at Ain Ebel, they found the place had been abandoned. Men of the 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion quickly built a road from the Palestine side up to the Syrian road at Aitaroun. By 4am, the Australians had moved into Syria. The mayor at Tibnine telephoned the mayor at Tyre and informed the Australians that they would be welcome in Tyre. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Monday, September 01, 2014

A sharp fight in the morning on the first day of the attack on Syria and Lebanon in June 1941

Australians had thought that the road to the south of Ras el Bayada had demolition charges set. A few men were left to block the road from traffic from the north. The rest headed south, still looking for mines and demolition charges. At 5am, they were fired on from a strong point. The Australians charged the strong point and took it. The men left behind to block the road heard shots fired and arrived at the scene. Increasing numbers of French troops were drawn by the fighting. They were able to stop a machine gun from firing and took a mortar. One group put the mortar and a machine gun on the roof of the post and fired on traffic on the road. They were able to successfully deal with two armoured cars that appeared next. After that, twelve men on horseback approached. They scattered when they were fired upon. By 7am, they heard what they guessed to be a demolition charge that would have destroyed the road north. A small group was sent by car towards Iskandaroun. They were fired on and returned fire. At that point, the road was blown up. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

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