Timeline 1941

22nd January - Troops turned out at midnight on an exercise to march fourteen miles in darkness, occupy a defensive position and return to camp for breakfast.

21st February - Battalion arrives at Balcombe Camp, Mt. Martha, Victoria. Training included a beach defence exercise at Mt. Martha with full sound effects and another near Flinders, on the shores of Westernport Bay.

30th March - Ship's Staff comprising Lieutenant Colonel N. F. Wellington (O.C. Troops), Captain A. H. J. Ross (Adjutant) and Staff Sergeant N. J. Young (Orderly Room Sergeant) left Balcombe for Sydney. Followed by Lieutenant F. M. S. Rossiter, Lieutenant C. G. Hamilton and Lieutenant W.W. Tilney, Chaplain F. Kellow, Regimental Sergeant Major Warrant Officer (I) R. Rex and Sergeant F. Crick. Two days later advance party of Major E. R. Meagher, Sergeant P. M. Hore and Lance Sergeant J. W. Cox moved out.

6th April - Main body of Battalion (organised into two parties) under Major E. A. Daly and Major J. T. Lang, entrained at Mornington, Victoria for Sydney.

7th April - Embarked via ferries on the troopship H.M.S. Queen Mary. Battalion accommodation on Main and A Decks.

9th April - Queen Mary leaves Sydney to await convoy at Jervis Bay.

11th April - Queen Mary leaves Jervis Bay in convoy.

16th April - Queen Mary arrives at Fremantle, Western Australia and anchors in Gage Roads. No shore leave and all attempts at defeating mail censorship blocked.

18th April - Queen Mary leaves Fremantle.

26th April - Queen Mary arrives at Trincomalee, Ceylon for refuelling.

3rd May - Queen Mary arrives at Port Tewfik, Suez.

4th May - Transhipped to the S.S. Ethiopia for seven hour trip up the Suez Canal to El Kantara. Baggage party under Lieutenant C. D. Jackson were being transported by barge along Canal when an enemy magnetic mine on the bank exploded. Some sunken ships seen along the Canal included a tanker.

5th May - Entrained at El Kantara for Hill 95 camp.

Early May - Twenty-seven troops in the over 35-years age group transferred to Headquarters Guard Battalion. Quartermaster Captain B. Berg transferred to Gaza Base Area staff and Lieutenant C. D. Jackson (A Company) promoted to Captain and appointed Quartermaster. C.O., Major E. R. Meagher, Captain R. A. Camm, Lieutenant R. R. Anderson, Major E. A. Daly, Captain H. M. Joss, Captain E. F. Aitken and Private Peter Cutter (draughtsman) made reconnaissance of defensive positions along northern border of Palestine (including Metulla) using a house at Rosh Pinah as base south of the River Jordan.

16th May - Private A. J. Spiller accidentally drowned in strong undertow off Herbaya Beach.

31st May - All defensive works suspended. Syrian Campaign offensive (actually in Lebanon) starts.

3rd June - Instruction commenced for the Thompson sub machine gun and Bren light machine gun (first time they had been issued).

6th June - Battalion entrained (less C & D Companies) at Dier Suneid for Hadera. Eventually re-assembled 2030 at Er Rama.

7th June - 1 Platoon A Company under Lieutenant W. Summons breachs frontier fence at El Malakiya at midnight for 2/16th Infantry Battalion. Buleida & Aiteroune villages captured within 2 hours. 2 Platoon A Company under Lieutenant R. Anderson work on preparing the track. 3 Platoon A Company under Lieutenant D. Guild improve the far end approaches. A Company sent to occupy and administrate Aiteroune.

8th June - B Company moved near Metulla. 5 Platoon B Company under Lieutenant I. Nicholson prepare approaches for the artillery. 6 Platoon B Company under Lieutenant N. Tranter improve a track from Mezudal to Banias. C & D Companies entrained to Hadera and then transported by trucks to Er Rama to join the Battalion as Force Reserve.

9th June - 4 Platoon B Company under Lieutenant J. Pemberton assist 2/5 Field Engineers to fill in a road crater near Dan. 4 & 6 Platoons B Company construct a track for field artillery. Fort Khiam shelled by this artillery in the afternoon.

10th June - D Company placed under 25th Infantry Brigade command and moved to Banias in a security role for the area.

11th June - B Company complete work on the artillery track towards Rachael Farquar. 4 Platoon B Company fill in road crater on road to Jezzine. 10 Platoon D Company sent to task at Khiam.

12th June - Remainder of D Company sent to Merdjayoun area to repair a road crater and construct an approach for a new bridge over the Litani River to replace an enemy demolished bridge. Company machine gunned from the air but sustained no casualties. Private Groves (4 Platoon B Company) wounded in head during enemy air fighter attack.

13th June - 4 Platoon rejoins B Company (now at Merdjayoun) and all move to Dier Mimess. Remainder of Battalion Headquarters and C Companies moved to olive grove at Dier Mimess via Metulla, Kleyat and the new Litani River bridge where they were machine gunned from the air but sustained no casualties (2 Platoon (Anti-aircraft) C Company under Lieutenant E. Campbell in action). C Company improved track to Metulla until 15th June. A Company moved to Wadi Zahrani south of Saida to construct a wadi crossing made of broken masonry and fill in a road crater after an air raid had finished.

14th June - A Company attacked just after dawn by Vichy French bomber (no casualties). D Company improve road near Jermie.

15th June - C Company start to help D Company. Vichy French reoccupy Merdjayoun after heavy shelling and a successful counter-attack. 1, 2 and 3 Platoon A Company at Zhalta to access viability of improving a track to use vehicles (plan abandoned). Bivouac at Jbaa. Orders from Force Headquarters for all Pioneer Companies to be recalled to hold Litani Bridge. Units in Merdjayoun area became Todd Force under Lieutenant Colonel Todd of the Scots Greys. Lieutenant G. Richards woke Captain E. F. Aitken 2200 hours to advise A Company was being recalled. A Company on the march in 30 minutes under Captain W. H. Mitchell as Captain Aitken had left with Driver Charlie Newman to report to Battalion Headquarters.

16th June - D Company arrive 0400 hours at Litani Bridge after a 5 hour march. 3 Platoon A Company under Lieutenant D. Guild sent to construct two road blocks. The rest of A Company start digging in after relieving D Company at Litani Bridge. C Company shelled heavily en route from Jezzine area (no casualties) but Headquarters Company resting nearby had Private G. Epple and Private L. Cook wounded. B Company moved 1100 to defensive position near Kleyat (Captain S. J. Handasyde left at bridge after he and Sergeant W. A. G. Ryan had placed demolition charges). Major E. R. Meagher wounded in the arm 1500 hours. Sergeant J. W. Cox killed shortly after. Captain S. J. Handasyde assumes command of B Company. Preliminary orders issued 1800 hours for attack on Fort Merdjayoun. Decision made for a frontal assault. Lieutenant G. N. Webster wounded during reconnaissance.

17th June - Twenty-four guns of 2/5 Field Regiment opened fire 0530 hours along a line 500 yards from the Fort, lifting the barrage 100 yards every 3 minutes. Platoon 1 and 2 A Company moved forward off the left side of the road (3 Platoon and Company Headquarters between but further back) until stopped 80 yards from Fort by wire fence. Captain E. F. Aitken ordered 3 Platoon forward under the platoons cover fire but it too had already suffered many casualties and could not advance. Lieutenant D. Guild wounded. Corporal R. Galloway's attempt to outflank with a Bren gun frustrated by fire from the Fort. Warrant Officer T. Hulse, Sergeant P. Sherman and Sergeant N. Dike attempts to crawl forward unsuccessful (Sergeant N. Dike killed) and the attack failed. Platoon 4 and 5 B Company moved forward off the right side of the road (6 Platoon and Company Headquarters between) until held by concentrated automatic fire. 6 Platoon wormed ahead and silenced an enemy post outside the Fort but B Company was essentially trapped like A Company. Sergeant W. Downes received Military Medal for carrying wounded Private E. L. Brennan back to the R.A.P. in full view of the enemy. Several enemy R35 tanks appeared with the Allied anti-tank guns out of range and the only Boyes anti-tank rifle the Companies had now out of ammunition. In the confusion many prisoners were taken including Lieutenant J. M. Pemberton, Lieutenant W. I. Summons and Warrant Officer T. Hulse. Captain E. F. Aitken and 20 men withdrew 400 yards to low stone wall to wait nightfall but enemy shelled position. Lieutenant R. R. Anderson wounded in the leg. Captain E. F. Aitken and remaining six men able to walk captured. Kleyat bombed and Battalion Headquarters shelled during the day. Survivors re-organised after straggling back to Kleyat. Captain W. H. Mitchell now in command of A Company. Casualties : 46 wounded treated by R.A.P., 27 killed and 29 captured. Two patrols of D Company sent 2030 hours with Chaplain F. Kellow (just returned from hospital) to search for casualties. C Company remained at Litani River bridge during attack on the Fort until moved back to Metulla at noon and positioned on the Kleyat-Merdjayoun road.

18th June - Motorcycle with sidecar from Merdjayoun fired upon by C Company but escaped. Two enemy tanks that moved down the road could not be shelled by 2/2 Anti-Tank Regiment north of Kleyat. 7 Platoon C Company withdrawn with tanks firing at any movement. Lieutenant R. M. S. Rossiter remained and attempted to draw out the tanks who withdrew when Allied 25 pounders opened fire in support. C Company moved back to Litani River bridge during which an air attack resulted in Private N. A. McKay being killed, Driver A. Watson mortally wounded and Warrant Officer G. Newton seriously wounded. Captain R. F. H. Winning now in command of C Company as Captain H. M. Joss already evacuated with an injured leg. Staff Sergeant S. Clarke now acting Company Sergeant-Major and Corporal T. C. Dickson acting C.Q.M.S. 8 Platoon sent to Kleyat and moved to quarries where 7 Platoon had been until 24th June. Corporal K. Nolan's section spotted enemy tank outside fort. Artillery fired on tank. C Company relieved by D Company.

19th June - Battalion ordered to stage a demonstration towards the fort in conjunction with attack by 2/25 Battalion, which would cross the Litani River and move towards Merdjayoun. 11 Platoon under Lieutenant J. A. Angus advanced along Kleyat-Merdjayoun road and dug in. Major J. T. Lang, Captain R. A. Camm and two sections of 12 Platoon under Lieutenant C. G. Hamilton did reconnaissance around left flank to make contact with 2/25 Battalion. Enemy snipers located in front of the fort, in the vineyards and among the stone walls. Several were killed and some captured, along with two light machine-guns, a mortar and a quantity of ammunition. 10 Platoon under Lieutenant R. G. Houston reinforced the patrol which was fired on by rifle­men from a house beside the fort. Private H. S. Robertson fired the captured mortar in support with Major J. T. Lang as observer. Patrol reached stone building in the rear of the fort. 1500 hours Major J. T. Lang wounded in the arm and thigh and carried out on ladder by prisoners from the Foreign Legion. Major E. A. Daly 2.I.C. for rest of campaign. 1900 hours enemy counter-attack with tank support against position and Captain R. A. Camm withdrew both sections. Captured 25-mm anti-tank gun used by Lieutenant F. G. Bellmaine and 81mm mortars operated by Private K. V. McKenzie, Private L. W. Bailey, Private R. Parrett, Private A. W. Rowe and Private J. H. Bruce. Plan to destroy enemy tanks during night of 19-20th June with sticky bombs abandoned.

21st June - C Company relieved D Company, who moved to occupy reverse slope positions on left flank. C Company sent out patrols under Corporal B. Dunn, Corporal L. F. Taylor and Corporal A. D. Dudley. 7 Platoon under Lieutenant W. W. Tilney sent section to investigate noise near fort rear. Corporal A. D. Dudley's section moved to right of fort.

22nd June - 0830 hours C and D Companies advanced on fort under smoke screen. Corporal A. D. Dudley's section moved in under the walls and round to fort rear gate without firing a shot. The enemy had moved out overnight. Battalion's Australian flag flown over fort. C Company moved to northern edge of town. 7 Platoon positioned from the cemetery to Balate Ridge, 8 Platoon in the vicinity of the school and 9 Platoon under Sergeant R. W. Allen on the right overlooking the road. D Company searched streets and houses under light enemy shelling. The town and Kleyat were very heavily air bombed. D company moved to olive groves north of town overlooking Debbine track and ate its first meal for the day. Soldiers killed on 17th June were buried in front of fort. Enemy dropped 40 mortar bombs in 8 platoon area (no casualties).

23rd June - C Company searched area and buried more of our own and enemy dead. Two wounded prisoners of Vichy French evacuated.

25th June - B Company moved along Ibles Saki-Khiam road where enemy fire caused several casualties (Private A. F. C. Gadsen killed). Private R. C. Smith, Headquarter Company killed by shrapnel while manning captured anti-tank gun under Lieutenant F. G. Bellmaine. Enemy on high ridge from north of Balate to the Litani River under fire from guns of 2/5 Field Regiment. C.O. issued his plan in outline.

26th June - C.O. wounded in the arm on a reconnaissance with Major Rickard (2/2nd Anti-Tank Regi­ment) and Captain R. A. Camm and sent on back of motorcycle to be treated by Captain J. R. Goding and evacuated. D Company moved into Balate village to rest before attack. Captain R. A. Camm took platoon commanders forward to see the ground and issue orders. The objective was a long low ridge running north, parallel to and due east of Balate Ridge, which dominated the Merdjayoun-Hasbaya Road. Three of four distinct knolls were selected as platoon objectives. 10 Platoon under Lieutenant R. G. Houston allotted the left, 11 Platoon under Lieutenant J. A. Angus the centre and 12 Platoon under Lieutenant C. G. Hamilton was to capture one of two knolls on extreme right. B Company also would support by fire from Balate Ridge and C Company ordered to be ready to move forward. 2015 hours when Major J. Wilton, Brigade Major of "Berry Force", was issuing the orders for the attack, Lieutenant Colonel R. F. Monaghan of 2/2 Anti Tank Regiment arrived to take command of the Battalion.

27th June - Morning cold with slight mist. 0100 hours D Company moved up Balate Ridge to dry wadi bed. Company Headquarters under Warrant Officer (II) G. H. G. Topfer set up in wadi with Private G. H. Smart's first aid post. 0405 hours artillery began shelling. 0415 hours attack begins and men soon under fire from artillery, machine-guns and mortars with few casualties initially. Corporal E. D. Morey's section on left of 12 Platoon overran a machine-gun post and captured two prisoners who tried to explain to Lieutenant C. G. Hamilton that the position was held by two thousand men. Forward troops reached objectives with minor casualties by dawn. 10 Platoon found opposition light. 11 Platoon had Sergeant R. N. Burgess mortally wounded and Lieutenant J. A. Angus killed. Lance Sergeant C. H. Warburton took over command. 12 Platoon discovered that the enemy main strength was on the reverse slope. The left section was in a rocky outcrop, where huge boulders and rock ledges made anything but hand-to-hand fighting impossible. A deadly game of hide and seek with grenades around the boulders had already begun. Lieutenant C. G. Hamilton led the platoon forward to the crest of the hill. Private H. B. A. Pugh stalked a mortar fired from knoll on the right with a tommy-gun, killed the crew and threw parts of the weapon away. Ammunition running low, Lieutenant C. G. Hamilton made arrangements for replenishing with Captain C. H. T. Nason. Communication was by runner. Captain R. A. Camm with his runner, Private G. S. Pritchard, moved to 11 Platoon. After checking siting of the sections with Sergeant C. H. Warburton, he heard heavy firing toward 12 Platoon and sent his runner to Headquarters to report. Captain R. A. Camm killed near 12 Platoon area. Enemy counterattacked mainly against 12 Platoon. Corporal E. D. Morey sent a runner to advise he was heavily pressed and out of grenades. Half a section sent to assist Corporal E. D. Morey was hit by machinegun and rifle fire which killed Private S. Chappel and Private S. B. Smith and mortally wounded R. Mahomed and could not reach E. D. Morey's section. Lieutenant C. G. Hamilton began to return with the two remaining men but was wounded in both legs and a bullet grazed his head. From where he fell Lieutenant C. G. Hamilton could see a large body of the enemy forming up to attack, and as the ammunition was almost expended and half of the platoon were casualties, he ordered Corporal J. E. Hann to leave the wounded and withdraw to Balate Ridge. Corporal J. E. Hann extricated the men just before an attack by a full enemy company. Company Sergeant Major, Warrant Officer (II) G. H. G. Topfer, relayed 12 Platoon message to Battalion Headquarters that they had over 50 per cent casualties, difficulty holding their ground and over twenty wounded in the first aid post. Lieutenant Colonel R. F. Monaghan, realising the attack had failed, imme­diately called down artillery defensive fire to allow 10 and 11 Platoons to withdraw. The Vichy French collected some of the wounded, including Lieutenant C. G. Hamilton, Private J. Ordish, Private W. Grimshaw and Private G. C. Jackman but abandoned them when our artillery began shelling. Enemy patrols searched the area after sunset and collected the wounded for medical attention. 10 and 11 Platoons kept under heavy fire but enemy did not attack. Captain C. H. T. Nason one of the last to leave the feature after being pinned behind some rocks by a sniper who put two bullet holes through his haversack which was projecting over the shallow cover. He eventually slipped away and took command of the company. Lieutenant R. G. Houston replaced Captain C. H. T. Nason as 2.I.C. Private G. H. Smart, Private J. H. Parker and Private E. C. Mibus searching for wounded, brought in Private E. N. Prest on a donkey. In another search with Private B. Dunn and Private D. McKenzie, Sergeant R. N. Burgess was recovered. Later both Sergeant R. N. Burgess and Private E. N. Prest died in hospital. Staff Sergeant W. Peeler, V.C., led a search to recover wounded and find Captain R. A. Camm. They found four wounded but not Captain R. A. Camm. Private G. H. Smart's (his birthday) at one time had 30 wounded men in his aid post. D Company lost two officers and twenty-three other ranks killed and two died of wounds, in addition to the men who had been wounded and those captured.

28th June - Enemy patrols continued to search the area and remove more wounded. About 70 reinforcements arrived from the Pioneer Training Battalion under the command of Lieutenant D. McKewan. Lieutenant D. McKewan took over 1 Platoon of A Company. Lieutenant G. W. Richards, who had been liaison officer with 7th Division, replaced by Lieutenant F. G. Bellmaine and took over 2 Platoon, while Sergeant I. Stewart continued to command 3 Platoon. Lieutenant J. Ludlow became Intelli­gence Officer.

29th June - Forward companies relieved: A Company taking over from D Company and C Company replacing B Company. During the after­noon while inspecting his section posts Captain S. J. Handasyde, O.I.C. B Company, was wounded in the head when a mortar bomb burst near him, but after receiving treatment at the Regimental Aid Post he returned to his company. In D Company area, Captain C. H. T. Nason reconnoitred forward with Major Rickard (2/2nd Anti-Tank Regiment) and made minor adjustments to platoon disposi­tions by moving Sergeant C. W. P. Lang's platoon forward on the right. The two officers then proceeded toward the ridge with a view to making arrangements to recover a disabled anti-tank gun, but heavy enemy fire forced them to return. Contact with the enemy was maintained by direct observation, but two patrols sent out on the night of 29th to ascertain the extent and stage of development of wiring and field works returned without making contact. The enemy had withdrawn his outposts and evidently had moved his main defences to the rear.

30th June - Enemy shelled and mortared the company positions without respite, causing minor casualties from flying splinters of rock (also next day).

1st July - Battalion relieved by Durham Light Infantry. Artillery and mortar fire caused three casualties, Private O. A. Porter and Private A. W. McPherson of D Company killed.

2nd July - 0140 hours last company reached olive groves at Dier Mimess. "Make and mend", overhaul of weapons and equipment and sleeping in the sun. Lieutenant Colonel R. F. Monaghan left early to report for orders which were to take two companies into the centre sector, where 2/25 Battalion was operating. The remainder of the Battalion would come under command of 21 Infantry Brigade as brigade reserve. The C.O. reconnoitred the area adjacent to Mazmoura in the centre sector. Battalion embussed after nightfall to vicinity of Saida near the American College.

3rd July - C.O. arrived and told Captain W. H. Mitchell (A Company) and Captain R. F. H. Winning (C Company) that with the im­provised mortar section they were to move their companies inland and to anticipate fighting before nightfall. The two company commanders left soon afterwards with the C.O., the platoon commanders following some hours later. C Company's Sergeant Major evacuated sick and replaced by Corporal T. C. Dickson, who handed over temporary charge of the cookhouse to Lance Corporal W. P. Murphy. After lunch, both companies moved out and arrived at Mazmoura at 1600 hours. Then on foot in single file to Mazraat ed Dahr, where they came under spasmodic shellfire. Patrols reported enemy were withdrawing toward El Jleliye. Other forces operating in the area were 2/25 Battalion, one squadron (horsed) Cheshire Yeomanry, 2/9 Field Regiment, which had a battery of 4.5-inch howitzers, and a troop of 2/4 Field Regiment. Also with the companies was Lieutenant E. Campbell and his mortar section, still with only the worn out captured weapons and dependent on captured bombs obtained from 7th Division Salvage Section. With the mortar section was a detachment of 3-inch mortars from 2/14 Battalion under Corporal J. Milbourne. C.O. gave orders for an immediate attack by A Company supported by C Company. As the attack com­menced, Captain W. H. Mitchell was wounded in the leg and evacuated. Captain R. F. H. Winning now in command of A Company until the end of the campaign. Lieutenant F. M. S. Rossiter took over as O.I.C. C Company and Sergeant R. W. Allen assumed command of 9 Platoon. Corporal G. D. Rodger killed in olive grove on the outskirts of Mazraat ed Dahr when C Company was shelled. Two of his section, Private A. E. Guest and Private E. W. Paterson, died of wounds shortly afterwards. A Company attacked with 1 Platoon (Lieutenant D. McKewan) in the centre, 2 Platoon (Lieutenant G. W. Richards) on the left and 3 Platoon (Sergeant I. Stewart) on the right. The company came under heavy machine-gun fire from a copse directly ahead and forced to halt. Captain R. F. H. Winning withdrew 3 Platoon, and taking Sergeant A. I. Stewart and Sergeant R. A. Greenham with him made a hasty reconnaissance with the aid of a friendly native, who pointed out a sunken path which led to dead ground below the enemy position. 3 Platoon under cover of machine-gun fire, moved along this route and rushed the copse. The enemy section fired a few shots and ran back through the village. The company then moved up, and when 3 Platoon entered the village the first man they met was Private H. J. Oldham of 1 Platoon unconcernedly making a pot of tea on his primus stove near a church in the centre of the village. At last light a patrol of four mounted spahis, unaware that the village had fallen, rode in and were made prisoner. The company remained here for the night. El Mtolle was the next objective, and Captain R. F. H. Winning, taking Corporal J. W. Yorston and his section, went forward to view the approaches to that village. After being challenged with "Qui va la?" and a burst of machine-gun fire, the patrol returned. Shelling by both sides overnight.

4th July - Sergeant R. Greenham and Corporal Barr's section moved back along the road to clear mines and allow two 6 Division Cavalry Regiment Bren gun carriers to come forward and assist A and C Companies. Remainder of C Company moved to El Jleliye and ordered to attack El Mtolle. Flanked by 7 Platoon on the left and 8 Platoon on the right, Lieutenant Rossiter led the attack with rear Company Headquarters following after an interval of 100 yards. The line of attack crossed a deep ravine and approached El Mtolle over steeply rising ground terraced all the way. Supporting artillery and mortars opened fire. 9 Platoon took up position on the road ready to support as soon as the success signal went up. Although only 1500 yards, the approach was slow and difficult. Machine-gun posts in village found evacuated. Company occupied posi­tions in and around the village for the night. C Company Headquarters established in village to remain there until the end of the campaign. In the attack on El Mtolle, Lieutenant Rossiter's 57-year-old batman, Private George Roach, led a mule loaded with ammunition in rear of the advancing troops. Although he had to tear down terracing to facilitate the passage of the mule, Private Roach successfully negotiated the difficult route and was only ten minutes behind the troops in entering the captured village. Enemy split and withdrew in two direc­tions, to the east towards Bsata and to the north towards Cherife. A and C Companies under 2/25 Battalion command. Lieutenant Colonel Monaghan and mortar section returned to Battalion at Saida.

5th July - 6th Division Cavalry Bren carriers reported Bsata, to the east of El Mtolle, clear of enemy. 7 Platoon and 8 Platoon moved out to investigate and joined up with a Cheshire Yeomanry troop. Enemy withdrawal towards Beikoum. Road­block removed and village occupied. Bsata was on the edge of Jezzine Valley, a precipitious ravine 2000 yards or more wide and 1000 feet deep. 2/31 Battalion was fighting in their advance towards Jezzine on the other side of the gorge. A Company moved to El Mtolle, and 3 Platoon moved out to overlook road junction on the way to the next objective, the village of Cherife, which lay slightly west of north from El Mtolle. 3 Platoon found a recently vacated enemy camp with containers of food still cooking on the fires, several piles of mortar bombs, a stack of rifles, some Breda machine-guns and many boxes of ammunition. Company moved forward of road junction. Company Headquarters established near bridge quite close to Cherife, with 2 Platoon on the right, 1 Platoon in the centre and 3 Platoon on a high feature on the left overlooking the village. Company area heavily shelled. Corporal Barr spotted enemy gun flashes for our artillery to assist silencing the enemy batteries. Distribution of food very difficult, and A Com­pany Quartermaster Sergeant (Sergeant Ling) moved his cook­house forward near Company Headquarters. Remainder of the Battalion, located at Saida, had spent two enjoyable days. There was ample water available and the men were able to wash their clothes and clean up. Bathing parties were sent down to the beach each day and much time was spent in letter writing. Lieutenant Colonel Monaghan instructed by 21st Brigade to move two companies up in close support to 2/16 Battalion which was commencing an attack to penetrate the Damour defences which also included natural features such as Wadi Damour. The C.O. left to reconnoitre the area and sent word back to move B and D Companies up. These two com­panies were very short of officers, B Company had only Captain Handasyde and Lieutenant I. Nicolson, who, though injured and walking on a stick, carried out the duties of second in ­command. Captain Nason and Lieutenant Houston were the only D Company officers and the platoons in both companies were commanded by sergeants. Major Daly led the two rear companies forward to Kassouba. The C.O. instructed Captain Handasyde to relieve a company of 2/5 Battalion. Captain Handasyde was unable to locate 2/5 Battalion, but before dawn, had B Company in position on the high ground at the right of the road. D Company were unable to locate guides from 2/16 Battalion. They and Captain Nason went forward to obtain information from 2/16 Battalion. Later, Captain Nason returned and led his com­pany, less 10 Platoon, before dawn to a position on the coast to the right of B Company. Patrols from both com­panies made no enemy contact. 10 Platoon under Sergeant C. Lang moved along road to 2/16 Headquarters where they received instructions to move forward with a guide and occupy an area as the rear platoon of the company that had forced the river crossing with very heavy casualties. During this time, the air was filled with screeching shells while a violent artillery duel was waged. Major Daly established advanced Battalion Headquarters in a rocky field about 150 yards from the sea.

6th July - Cookhouse area shelled several times and Captain R. F. H. Winning sent it back to El Mtolle.

7th July - D Company, strength now at 67 men, ordered to move forward across the river and relieve a company of 2/16 Battalion. D company moved by three routes to an old stone blockhouse on the road on the near side of the river, where 10 Platoon rejoined. River crossed under heavy shellfire without casualties. Proceeding about 300 yards, D Company of 2/16 contacted. This company had forced the river crossing and broken through heavy defences, but had suffered considerably and now only had 27 men commanded by a sergeant. This force moved out to the left to extend the line to the beach. Patrol led by Corporal Shannon was unable to make much progress owing to enemy snipers and posts covering a deep gully extending through the plantation several hundred yards further north. C Company moved to Beikoum where a Cheshires patrol had come under long range heavy machine gun fire. A patrol sent out by 8 Platoon failed to draw fire, but when Lieutenant Bishop moved his platoon forward they came under heavy fire with forward scouts pinned down until nightfall. The platoon took another route by traversing the steep terraced slopes, moved forward three miles and by dark were overlooking the village of Mazra Ech Choef. 8 platoon withdrew to Beikoum and the area where it had been was heavily shelled and mortared by the enemy.

8th July - D Company moved forward with a single rank of men moving at 10 yards interval. Cover very dense with good foot-tracks through the plantation covered by enemy weapons. Visibility a few yards in any direction. Corporal Shannon sent forward with a patrol to cross the gully but pinned down by heavy fire until nightfall. In the morning, 8 platoon returned above Mazra and found an enemy machine-gun post on the position firing at our troops on the right. 8 Platoon moved within 150 yards of the post. While Corporal Whitfeld's section engaged the post, and Corporal Taylor's section moved forward and also engaged it from another angle, the enemy withdrew leaving one killed and one wounded. 7 Platoon under Lieutenant Tilney moved forward 800 yards under steadily increasing shellfire, until it was forced to halt. Corporal Mucklow took a patrol forward and reached within 30 yards of the enemy positions. Lieutenant Colonel Withy decided to attack at 1600 hours, using one company of 2/25 Battalion supported by A and C Com­panies. 7 Platoon was forced to go to ground 250 yards from the enemy positions when it came under heavy machine-gun fire. Lieutenant Tilney moved forward with one section to locate the enemy posts which were holding up the advance and discovered three enemy sangars where he had expected to find a platoon of A Company. The section withdrew. Lieutenant Tilney and Corporal Mucklow, taking two Bren guns, moved out to stalk the machine-gun posts. After two hours they silenced two of the guns, but were unable to locate the third. At 1230 hours 8 Platoon movement along the edge of the ravine was detected by the enemy and the machine-gun fired on them. Corporal Mucklow silenced this post with his Bren gun and the enemy withdrew. The main enemy positions were opposite 2/25 Battalion, who had A Company on their right. At 1552 hours our artillery opened up on the enemy and the troops moved forward and engaged them at short range. At 1600 hours Captain Butler's Company, 2/25 Battalion, rose and charged with the bayonet. The enemy fled, drawing a tremendous volume of fire as they went. The platoon moved forward and occupied positions on the ridge above Mazra. A patrol from 7 Platoon pressed on to the village, where Corporal Beadle, using grenades, cleared a strong-post located in a house. Both companies took up positions for five days above Mazra ech Cheof, 8 Platoon having attached to them the troop of the Cheshire Yeomanry. Patrols were sent out and a number of prisoners rounded up. Delivery of the first company-cooked meal to the troops on the isolated ridge above Mazra ech Choef was almost a full night's job for C Company's Sergeant-Major. Intelligence Officer, Lieutenant J. Ludlow, organised mule trains that ammunition and rations were assured. Private Albert Schulz of A Company and Private Jim Dowie of C Company did excellent work with the mule transport in getting stores forward.

9th July - In the early morning, 11 Platoon of D Company attacked strongly defended enemy posts in the banana plantations of Damour. 11 Platoon successfully withdrawn by Corporal Shannon when held up by enemy machine-gun crossfire. He then, although twice wounded, led his section forward again to eventually overcome the enemy opposition. Corporal Shannon wounded in the shoulder and evacuated. He was awarded the Military Medal. The company reached a line approximately 150 yards from the gully, but heavy fire from machine-guns prevented any further advance. B Company was brought forward from the ridge and positioned on the right of D Company with 4 Platoon on the left of the road. The mortar section had by now received new 3-inch mortars, and with the detach­ment of 2/14 Battalion still attached, moved up to support the forward companies. Damour was a defended zone covering Beyrouth, principal city and port of Syria. The defences were sited in great depth. Guns in heavy emplacements covered the road, and extensive plantations between the town and sea were dotted with well-prepared strongpoints and tanks in hull-down positions. Attempt to force a crossing by section of 10 Platoon under Corporal Keating unsuccessful. Corporal Keating and four of his men wounded. The gully, a formidable obstacle, was 20-30 yards wide and 15-20 feet deep with sheer sides. The bottom was heavily wired and covered by the fire of several machine-guns. The north wall was con­structed of stone and loopholed with shelters, against which the company weapons had no effect. On the north bank stood a large building known as the Match Factory (actually a silk factory) with snipers and machine-gunners concealed in its upper floors. One section from each platoon was withdrawn to form a reserve, which with the skeleton headquarters gave depth to the position. Fire was opened at intervals from different points, and a patrol moving around the rear made sufficient noise to create the impression that more troops were coming forward. A patrol under Corporal Pallas made contact with B Company on the right flank, while D Company, 2/16 Battalion, on the left was also con­tacted. Staff Sergeant W. Peeler moved his kitchen up from Saida to the north bank of the river and set up in the shelter of the high stone walls within 500 yards of the platoon positions. The cook­house staff consisted of two slightly wounded men and a driver. Mortaring and shelling of the area.

10th July - Company heavily shelled and mortared at daybreak but little damage was done as platoons and sections had been moved. Company ordered to withdraw 500 yards whilst a heavy artillery concentration was put down on the enemy positions, after which a new attempt to force a crossing of the gully was to be made. After the artillery had ceased firing, it was discovered that the enemy had followed up the withdrawal and occupied the positions vacated by the company. Eventually the enemy was forced back across the gully, and the position was the same as the previous night. Lieutenant Colonel Monaghan informed Captain Nason of D Company that the gully had to be carried that night with a secure bridge­head established by the following morning. Method of attack discussed and orders issued with platoon commanders Sergeant Lang, Sergeant Warburton and Sergeant S. E. Smith. All movement invited heavy enemy fire, particularly on 11 Platoon opposite the factory. Sergeant S. E. Smith and his runner Private Harman of 12 Platoon killed. Corporal H. K. Stewart now in command of 12 platoon. During this phase excellent work was performed by the company medical orderlies, Private Smart and Private Parker. In the coastal sector, Advanced Headquarters moved into two-storied house on the hill in Damour.

11th July - Captain Nason decided to attack at 0230 hours and sent a message to the company of the 2/16 Battalion to assist with fire from the beach. 10 and 11 Platoons moved to a position opposite the factory and 12 Platoon some 300 yards to the left after dark (reconnaissance had revealed several gaps in the enemy wire). At H Hour, fire was opened by all available weapons on enemy machine-gun posts which could be located from the stream of tracer ammunition. 11 and 12 Platoon sections cut a path through the wire and threw grenades into the loopholes in the stone wall to force a crossing. The enemy withdrew. Sergeant Warburton led 11 Platoon under continual heavy fire against machine-gun posts on the north side of the specially-prepared concrete defences until severely wounded, his platoon succeeding in wiping out the most dangerous posts. For his work at Balate on 27th June and in this action, Sergeant Warburton was awarded the Military Medal. Corporal F. E. Stokes, now in command of 11 Platoon, led his section across a wadi under heavy machine-gun fire from enemy pill boxes and used hand grenades to drive the enemy from several posts. He then brought covering fire on other enemy posts which permitted his platoon to advance and secure the enemy line covering the road. Corporal F. E. Stokes awarded Military Medal. At daylight Company Headquarters and 10 Platoon crossed the gully. A large quantity of enemy equipment and arms, including 75-mm guns which had been firing over open sights, was captured. Disabled tanks which had been used as pillboxes were also discovered. Limit of plantation reached 1500 hours. Captain Nason awarded Military Cross. B Company ordered to advance on the right of D Company and secure the high ground east of the road, moved with 4 Platoon under Lieutenant H. Page astride the road and in contact with D Company's flank platoon. Attached machine-gun section used with good effect from high ground right of the road, whilst the Battalion's mortars knocked out a 75-mm gun which had been blocking the road. The mortars then engaged other targets in close support of B Company. B Company made little progress during the morning until artillery and mortar con­centrations brought down in the early afternoon enabled the advance to be resumed, and the forward section reached the valley in line with the ridge. This left a gap in the general line, which was given to the mortars as their responsi­bility. At first light forward elements of B Company entered Damour without further opposition. Lieutenant Page's runner, Private E. E. Rippon, killed by sniper in northern limits of Damour. B company advanced another mile, but was ordered to with­draw to the position south of the town which it had occupied the previous morning. Concurrently with D Company's re­sumption of the attack, B Company again moved north of Damour, where a defensive position was occupied on the high ground protecting D Company's right flank. Private F. Richards was runner for 5 Platoon. He made three trips from platoon headquarters to company head­quarters, a distance of four hundred yards, and during each trip he had to pass through belts of machine-gun fire and was constantly under observation of the enemy snipers. On each trip to company headquarters he brought back sketches from the platoon commander giving the position of forward enemy machine-gun posts which resulted in them being subdued by our 3-inch mortars and the company being able to advance. He also gave assistance on two occasions in carrying urgently needed SAA from company head­quarters up to his platoon. Private F. Richards was awarded the Military Medal. Corporal Jack Steel's section, consisting of Private Tom Malone, Private Bill Wood, Private "Spike" Edmondson and Private Joey Campbell, was also here when a snake struck Malone in the face near the eye. The other members of the section cut the bite with a razor blade and sucked the wound. B and D Companies moved a mile forward and occupied positions astride the road. Enemy artillery fired numerous number of shells, a large proportion falling into the sea. However, a heavy-calibre gun firing from the vicinity of a tall wireless mast about four miles north threw occasional shells into the rear area. Some of the sections of D Company were able to enjoy a dip in the sea while Captain Nason acted as spotter for stray shells. The Battalion had now reverted to 17 Infantry Brigade and received orders that the forward positions would be taken over by 2/5 Battalion that night. Soon after dark the relief took place and weary troops were shuttled back about three miles, where they moved into a bivouac in the familiar banana plantations. During the relief the enemy artillery fired furiously, but fortunately the shells passed overhead. B and D Company's troops were able to bathe in the sea, and the company quartermaster-sergeants had the packs up making a change of clothes available. The Regimental Aid Post was established in the area and Captain Goding and his staff were busy treating a new malady, ulcers commonly known later as "Wog" sores. The capture of Damour, the fall of Damascus earlier in the campaign, the series of decisive defeats suffered by the French in the centre sector and the rapid advance of the column coming in from Iraq towards Homs opened the way for an all-out onslaught on the capital, Beyrouth, whose destruction was averted when the French sought an armistice.

12th July - Two mile withdrawal of the company kitchen after enemy shelling on 11th July. Cease fire ordered and surrender of the Vichy French started (battle memorial plaque near Dog River, Damour).

13th July - Lieutenant Colonel Monaghan left for 1st Australian Corps and Major Daly took over temporary command of Battalion. Church parade held at El Mtolle for C Company before moving to the coast to rejoin the Battalion.

15th July - A and C Companies move into Damour. Campaign had lasted only five weeks but 73 of its officers and men were killed, 102 had been wounded in action and a number had been evacuated sick.

17th July - Battalion bivouacked in olive grove opposite Fort Legoult in Tripoli. Lieutenant Colonel Monaghan returned to the Battalion. Major E. R. Meagher returned from hospital to become second-in-command. Major E. A. Daly went to A Company taking with him Lieutenant F. M. S. Rossiter and Lieutenant F. G. Bellmaine. The unwounded men who had been taken prisoner at Merdjayoun returned and told their story: All prisoners with the exception of Captain E. F. Aitken's party, which was held in the fort under constant artillery bombardment for several hours, were evacuated to Beyrouth (Beirut). Prisoners were at Idlib, 20 miles from Aleppo. French High Command decided to transfer all prisoners of rank of warrant officer and above to Vichy France. Captain E. F. Aitken, Lieutenant W. Summons and Warrant Officer (II) T. Hulse were flown out from Aleppo airfield. Lieutenant C. G. Hamilton, Lieutenant J. M. Pemberton, Lieutenant R. R. Anderson and a number of other ranks who had been wounded in the actions around Merdjayoun were still in hospital in Beyrouth.

19th July - Battalion moved into olive and fig groves three miles north of Tripoli.

20th July - Guard duties assigned : C Company moved to Iraq Petroleum Company's installations near Battalion Headquarters. D Company moved Company Headquarters and one platoon to the fort at Tel Kelar situated on the road leading to Homs, 15 miles from Tripoli, one platoon to Tartous on the coast 25 miles north and the remaining platoon to Fort 37. Other garrison responsibilities undertaken were the large ammunition dumps at Alma, Kleat aerodrome, north of Tripoli, the French Army Alpine school at The Cedars and the waterfront and breakwater at El Mina, port of Tripoli. One platoon was sited on a narrow point of land due west of the town, one platoon on an island some 300 yards offshore with one section post on the end of the breakwater, and the third platoon stretching from a small village on the foreshore near the petroleum company's installa­tions to the seaplane hangar. All supplies for the posts on the island and the breakwater were delivered by a motor launch operated by Driver Harold Moon. All companies stationed at El Mina showed a vast increase in sandfly fever. The German thrust toward the Caucasus had begun and it was feared that the enemy might attempt to reach the Suez Canal through Syria and Palestine. Battalion carried out several extended patrols in the high mountainous country behind Tripoli. The first led by Major E. A. Daly, who had with him Lieutenant D. D. Guild, Lieutenant G. N. Webster and Sergeant F. V. Phillips using pack mules, set out from Syr and were out on the high plateau for three days. This patrol was attempting to find a route to the valley of the Orontes River and was hampered by continual cloud blocking the view. Captain Nason led a patrol comprising Corporal H. K. Stewart and Private J. H. Parker, Private W. J. McLean and Private L. McCourt which set out from Sauwak, the highest village in Syria. A third patrol of Lieutenant W. W. Tilney and Staff Sergeant T. C. Dickson, of C Company, was out for two days. Setting out from Syr on muleback this patrol reached an altitude of more than 5000 feet and determined the unsuitability of the Wadi Ed Dil region for winter quarters, as it was discovered that for some months of the year it lay under three feet of snow. Another small patrol, comprising Lieutenant W. Summons and Private Jim W. Dowie, of C Com­pany, was out in the mountains for two days.

7th August - All companies ordered to stand-to on all exits from Tripoli and man road blocks. This operation was associated with the arrest, of the Vichy French General Dentz and 35 of his staff officers, who were detained pending the safe return to Syria of all those officers and warrant officers who had been captured earlier in the campaign and evacuated to Europe.

Late August - Captain E. F. Aitken, Lieutenant W. Summons and Warrant Officer (II) T. Hulse were repatriated from France. Their story : (a) Captain Aitken emplaned at Aleppo but the aircraft caught fire and a forced landing was made on Karpathos. After three weeks, he was moved to Rhodes, embarked on a small ship for Athens, sailed through the Corinth Canal to Brindisi, Italy, moved by train along the east coast of Italy to Piacenza, and the medieval castle of Montalbo. He returned to Syria after a sea voyage from Toulon, France. (b) Lieutenant W. Summons and Warrant Officer (II) Hulse were emplaned for Athens, transferred to another plane and arrived in Salonika, Greece. After the Syria campaign finished, they travelled seven days with the French Military Mission by train through the Balkan States, Austria, Southern Germany to Toulon, France. After a stay of four days, they were returned to Beyrouth by sea. Captain W. H. Mitchell and Lieutenant D. D. Guild returned from hospital about the same time. Captain E. F. Aitken returned to A Company. Major E. A. Daly took over B Company. Captain S. J. Handasyde and Captain A. H. J. Ross left for a Pioneer Training Battalion tour of duty. The Pioneer Training Battalion was one of a series of training units set up as part of the Reinforcement Depot. It served 2/1st, 2/2nd and 2/3rd Pioneer Battalions and was staffed by selected officers and non-commissioned officers from each battalion on secondment. Lieutenant E. Campbell promoted to Captain and became adjutant. Lieutenant I. D. Nicolson, Lieutenant A. H. Bishop and Lieutenant D. D. Guild promoted to Captain. Sergeant A. I. Stewart and Sergeant R. W. Allen com­missioned as Lieutenants. Lieutenant J. H. Templeman joined the Battalion and was posted to D Company. Leave parties to Beyrouth and Damascus were introduced. Two officers' leave parties were organised. The first to Palestine and the second to Transjordan.

Early September - All troops completed a specially designed rifle range course in the sandhills between Kleat aerodrome and the Mediterranean under Lieutenant F. M. S. Rossiter.

12th September - Draft of 70 men under Lieutenant J. M. Pemberton rejoined the Battalion from the Pioneer Training Battalion. These men had been Syria campaign casualties.

13th September - Air-raid warning 0200 but no aircraft appeared.

14th September - Battalion, less duties and distant platoons, assembled at the I.P.C. barracks for a church parade, an inspection and a conference of company commanders, when further areas north of Tripoli were allocated for reconnaissance. Orders were received for two companies to move out into the central plain of Syria and come under command of 6th Australian Division, which had not yet arrived but had set up an Advanced Headquarters at Baalbek (a famous Roman colony) and was relieving 6th British Division.

23rd September - A and B Companies detailed and moved out travelling via Homs for Ras Baalbek and Rayak respectively. A Company on arrival at Ras Baalbek was allotted a bivouac area which lacked all the requirements of a suitable camp-site except drainage. The Ras Baalbek area was rocky, bare and unsheltered. The company was allotted to 2/4th Field Company and later to 2/8th Field Company for work on an anti-tank ditch west of the road Baalbek-Homs.

26th September - A Company did work involving lateral and artillery road construction, bridge approaches and culverts near the village of Laboue. B Company main tasks were mounting of guards on the Engineer Workshops and storeyards in Rayak, construction of two large underground explosives, wiring the perimeter of a bomb dump and five acres for a petrol dump for the Royal Air Force, and unloading hut sections from rail trucks. Plumbers Private W. G. Tuck and Private F. L. Sullivan were engaged in tankmaking and hot-water installation. Sign-writer Private R. J. French did signs in French and Arabic. The Company also had two carpenters, Private J. H. Bruce and Private Jim Woods. Leave parties sent to Beyrouth, Damascus or Zahle.

24th September - Battalion less the two detached companies hands over garrison duties to the Free French Forces and com­mences construction of tactical roads within the Tripoli defence project under 2/5th Field Company. D Company moved to the east of Besamah and commenced work with 200 native labourers. C Company was similarly employed in the vicinity of Alma.

21st October - C Company under 16th Infantry Brigade moved with the re­mainder of the Battalion near Katana, 16 miles south-west of Damascus. Before the move to Katana, Lieutenant Colonel R. F. Monaghan left to enter hospital in Palestine then resumed command of the 2/2nd Anti-Tank Regi­ment. Major E. R. Meagher administered command of the Battalion in the interim. Captain E. F. Aitken promoted to Major and warned for the posting of C.O. Pioneer Training Battalion to replace Major H. M. Joss, who returned to the Battalion. Quartermaster Captain C. D. Jackson transferred to the Training Battalion. Captain I. D. Nicolson of B Company was the new Quartermaster. Captain I. Campbell transferred to D Company. Captain S. J. Handasyde took over as O.I.C. Headquarter Company and Captain A. H. J. Ross as 2.I.C. B Company. Lieutenant N. Tranter rejoined B Company.

27th October - D Company moved out from Katana to Mersalun area near Dimas on the Damascus-Beyrouth highway to construct a tactical road to the plateau of Jebel Mazah. All work suspended owing to a blizzard. The road task was then completed except for surfacing.

1st November - Major E. R. Meagher and Captain D. D. Guild left for Palestine to attend a conference with Brigadier C. S. Steele, Chief Engineer, 1st Australian Corps, to discuss proposed re­organisation of Pioneer Battalions. The cold weather caught the Battalion without warm clothing and Lieutenant J. Ludlow was sent to Palestine to locate the kits which had been deposited at the kit store, Alexandria, in June. They were located at Peta Ticva, near Tel Aviv in Palestine.

6th November - Motor trucks returned with the kits.

10th November - Major (later Lieutenant Colonel) J. M. Williams arrived at Katana to take command of the Battalion. 3rd reinforcements arrived at Katana. Lieutenant A. F. D. Rodie, Lieutenant J. H. Marshall and Lieutenant E. C. L. Etches arrived from the Training Battalion.

Early December - Battalion Head­quarters moved to Baalbek. C and Headquarter Com­panies moved to a hutted camp three miles north of the old tented camp at Katana. C Company provided patrols. Ras Baalbek (the small village near A Company's camp) was the scene of several company raids resulting in the recovery of large quantities of military equipment.

25th December - The troops built snowmen and fought with snowballs. As usual on Christmas Day church services were held early and the officers and N.C.Os waited on the men's mess tables at the principal meal. Menu of B Company at Rayak included ten geese and a pig. B Com­pany entertained C.O. J. M. Williams, Adjutant Captain E. Campbell and most of Battalion Headquarters staff.

26th December - Officers held a dinner at the Trianon Restaurant in Damascus.