Khirbe

Khirbe, a small town in south-eastern Lebanon, was the site of the 2/31st Battalion's first major engagement of the campaign in Syria and Lebanon, and the Second World War. Advancing from the Palestine frontier in the early hours of 8 June, the 2/31st was able to move quite close to Khirbe without encountering any resistance. A Free French officer was then sent forward to encourage the Vichy French garrison, part of an Algerian regiment, to surrender, but he was rebuffed and subsequently shot in the back as he returned to the Australian positions. The 2/31st was then subject to heavy fire artillery, mortars and machine-guns. Attempts were made to advance throughout the early morning, but Khirbe, located atop a hill, was an excellent defensive position and little progress was made. The effort to capture Khirbe was called off mid-morning. The Defences of Khirbe were probed and tested for the next two days, which included an ill-conceived and costly sortie by some bren gun carriers of the 6th Division Cavalry Regiment on 10 June. A renewed attack on Khirbe was launched at 2.30am on 11 June. The 2/31st advanced close behind a heavy creeping artillery barrage. Khirbe was reached just on dawn and, after a short vicious fight with grenades and bayonets, soon fell to the Australians. The 2/31st captured 56 Vichy French prisoners at a cost of 16 killed and 34 wounded.