Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Problems in the east of Syria from 8 June 1941

The 21st Brigade was winning their battle along the coast road on 10 June 1941, but to the east, the 25th Brigade was blocked. Interestingly enough, British horsed cavalry was at Kafr Sir and connected with the Australians at Qasmiye. In the east, at Merdjayoun, the 25th Brigade was being reinforced to try and take the place. General Lavarack was concerned and offered more troops to Brigadier Cox. On 9 June, after a heavy barrage, a company had entered Fort Khiam, after it had been abandoned. The 2/31st Battalion was stopped by French artillery fire. The shelling set fire to haystacks and forced the battalion to pull back. The artillery fire was coming from Khirbe and guns sited to the west. Early on 9 June, Sergeant Davis and his patrol were to try and save the bridge over the Litani near Merdjayoun. They succeeded in taking the bridge and removing the detonators. A large French force came up and by the afternoon, they had destroyed the small bridge and then the large bridge. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Monday, November 24, 2014

North along the coast from the Litani on 10 June 1941

On 10 June 1941, one troop of carriers from the 6th Australian Cavalry had turned towards Imsar. They ran into some fifty French troops (not North African). The cavalrymen fired several machine gun bursts at them and some surrendered while others ran. They went after the rest of the group from Kafr Badda, but could not follow them into the rocky hills. The carriers from the cavalry then drove on to Imsar. They were informed by the village headman that the French had left the previous night. Despite what the cavalry had seen, east of the coast road, the two Australian battalions were fighting and taking casualties. At El Ouasta, there were troops with 13 machine guns that were enfilading the 2/16th Battalion. To counter them, ships offshore fired on them, along with field artillery, and caused the French to have to retreat. By late on 10 June, the Australians were able to move north to a line "southwest of Adloun." This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

10 June 1941 with the 2/27th Battalion in Syria

The plan for 10 June 1941 was for the 2/27th Battalion to move north along the road. Carriers from the 6th Cavalry would scout ahead. The 2/16th Battalion would move through the hills and clear opposition. Farther from the coast, the Cheshire reached Kafr Sir on 10 June after a short fight. The carriers moved north across the bridge at about 6am. A troop was ordered to move towards Imsar while most moved north along the main road. The carriers on the main road chased off some French Spahis with pack mules. They were then attacked by French armoured cars. The anti-tank rifles on the carriers were able to repel the armoured cars. They reached the vicinity of Adloun by 10am. They were fired on by some light French guns. They saw two tanks and then found that there were four abandoned French tanks. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The night of 9 to 10 June 1941 at the Litani

The large artillery barrage, which started at 9:30pm on 9 June 1941, lasted a half an hour. As many as 960 rounds were fired, and it was largely wasted, due to the earlier successes. After the firing ceased, Captain Horsely and his men moved back into the ground that they had captured. They were on the right, while a company from the 2/27th Battalion was on the left. The men from the 2/27th crossed the river in turns, in the one folding boat that was available. Two platoons had a stiff fight against machine guns and mortars. They won the fight and took "a company of Algerians". In the process, 20 commandos were set free. Beyond the river, there were caves dug into the cliff wall. They discovered "large quantities of food, weapons and ammunition". During the night, the 2/6h Field Company put a bridge over the river, east of the stone bridge that had been blown. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Friday, November 14, 2014

On the north bank o of the Litani on the evening of 9 June 1941

In the evening of 9 June 1941, Brigadier Stevens, of the 21st Brigade, ordered an operation to bridge the Litani river with folding boats. He did not have good communications with the troops on the north bank, and did not realized just how successful they had been. There were men from the 2/16th Battalion on the north bank. Captain Horley had pushed to within 500 yards of a building they called "the barracks". Captain Horley had personally led an attack the overcame a French machine gun emplacement. In the process of the successful attack to the north, they had taken some 70 French prisoners. The problem was that they had lost the ability to communicate with the south bank. They knew that there was a planned barrage. They had withdrawn to a safer position, but then they started receiving fire from British ships, so they had to withdraw further back. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Comments on the commando operation in Syria on 9 June 1941

The commando operation in support of the Australians on 9 June 1941 went very badly. The Australian Official History commented that while the commandos had bad luck, the operation was not well planned. There was no coordination between the Australian commander, Brigadier Stevens, and Colonel Pedder prior to the operation. They had a brief meeting in Nazareth, and that was all. The commando group had gone ashore about one-and-a-half miles north of the Litani River. They landed in a ill-chosen position that was well-defended. The result was Colonel Pedder and several more officers were killed. One group of commandos was captured by the French. Another group of commandos took some prisoners and then moved south to find the Australians. Another group that landed farther north was captured on 10 June at Alteniye. The commandos immediately to the north of the Australians had been badly shot up and had lost many men on the beach to artillery and machine gun fire. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

With the Commandos at the Litani on 9 June 1941

Lt-Col Keyes and his commandos had succeeded in advancing to the Litani river. This was on 9 June 1941. Some Australians from the 2/16th Battalion were ordered to carry boats to the commandos. They were in a poor location and were taking heavy fire. They lost as many as a quarter of the commandos and the Australians. They were only able to transport one boat to the river. Two loads of commandos and Australians were able to cross the river. By noon, they had taken a French defensive position that had protected the river and captured about 35 men. In a few hours, the commandos and one platoon of Australians were across the river. Captain Longworth, of the 2/4th Field Regiment eventually was able to contact his unit. He found out that an attack was planned for 9:30pm. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

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