Battle of Damour

05 July 1941 - 12 July 1941

The battle of Damour was the final major operation of the Australian campaign in Syria and Lebanon. Damour is a large town on the Lebanon coast of approximately 30 kilometres south of Beirut, which in 1941 was the French administrative capital. The Wadi Damour, with the Damour River in its bed, was a further three kilometres to the south of the town. It was the last major natural obstacle that had to be crossed prior to reaching Beirut. Having already captured the heights overlooking Damour on the south bank of the wadi, the plan developed by Major General Arthur "Tubby" Allen, commanding the 7th Australian Division, involved encircling the French positions at Damour. The operation began on the night of 5 July 1941 with troops of the 21st Brigade moving into position to cross the Damour River in two places. They attacked French positions on the northern side early on 6 July - the 2/16th Battalion at El Atiqa, the 2/27th at El Boum. By nightfall both positions were in Australian hands. In the early hours of 7 July the 2/3rd and 2/5th Battalions, and two companies of the 2/14th then moved northwards through El Boum, outflanking Damour to the east. At Daraya, the 2/14th companies swung west to advance on Damour from the east, while the 2/3rd and 2/5th Battalions continued north to cut the road to Beirut north of the town, which they accomplished on 8 July. In the south, the 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion and elements of the 6th Divisional Cavalry Regiment were advancing along the axis of the coastal road. By 2 am on 9 July the Pioneers were advancing into the southern outskirts of the town, and at 4 am a patrol from the cavalry were able to drive right through; the French had withdrawn. The Australians immediately began pushing along the coastal road towards Beirut. The Vichy French commander, General Henri Dentz, had sought an armistice on 8 July and at one minute past midnight on 12 July a ceasefire came into effect, ending the campaign.