Sunday 22 January 2023

Zaharani River

Zaharani River

Lebanon, June 11-12th 1941

After crossing the Litani River, the next major obstacle to the Allies was the Zaharani which cut across the line of advance towards Sidon. There was a vital road linking the coast to Merdjayoun, the task fell to 2/14th Battalion AI supported by battalion mortars and a battery from 2/4th Field Artillery. The Vichy had blown the bridge and the Australians are forced to try a direct assault across the river-bed (hardly more than a trickle at that time of the year, but the banks are steep). Facing them are men of the 6th Foreign Legion Infantry, well dug-in with machine guns and mortars. 


2/14th Infantry Battalion with:

HQ inc artillery FOO

3 rifle companies

Battalion 3” mortars (off table)

 Battalion HQ & medical detachment

“A” company includes artillery FOO

“B” company

“C” company


Battery 2/4th Field Artillery (25ldrs) – off table

 Reinforcements (turn 8)

“A” Company 2/27th Australian Infantry

No1 Battery 2/2nd anti-tank battalion (37mm Bofors)

Air support

2/14th can call in a sortee from a Hurricane fighter bomber any time after turn 10, the plane arrives over the table 1d6 turns after called.

Vichy defenders

Elements 6th Foreign Legion Infantry Regiment


4 infantry platoons

3 x MMGs

2 x 80mm mortars

Reinforcements (turn 8)

4 x R-35 tanks

Air support

The Vichy can call one sortee from a MS.406 any time after turn 6 the aircraft arrives 1d6 turns later.

My table

Australian Battalion HQ

Forward Aid Detachment

The first couple of turns see the Australian “A” and “B” companies descend the steep banks, they come under Vichy mortar and machine gun fire.

The Australian FOO calls down his 25ldrs against the old hill fort as he assumes its occupied (maybe by the Vichy FOO team)

 Turn 3 “B” company is taking quite a lot of fire from the Legionnaires – rifle grenades and machine gun fire take a toll - No3 platoon is so badly hit it requires a morale check!

The 25lbrs smash the hill fort

The Australian Battalion HQ calls its 3” mortars against one of the machine gun nests

The French realise their 4th platoon is too far away to help the defence, so order it towards the centre.

 Turn 4 Sees both Australian companies crossing the river bed under fire

No3 platoon of “B” company breaks and falls back

The Australian 25ldrs change their target to the next high point in an attempt to illuminate the French FOO

Their mortars knock out one of the French machine guns

 Turn 5 finds what is left of the two Australian companies across the river, but they are both pinned by well placed Vichy positions, No 1 platoon of “B” company finds itself counter-attacked by a Vichy unit, they take so many casualties they require a morale check. No2 platoon gets caught by mortar fire and takes enough casualties to also require a morale check!

Australian 25ldrs continue to target far high ground in an attempt to find the French FOO

The Australian commander decides to commit “C” company

 Turn 6 “A” company is pinned, both “B” company platoons fail their morale checks and retreat back across the river, thus “B” company with only its HQ and No3 platoon left (both with casualties) are also unable to move forward!

“C” company begins to scramble down the bank and are hit by French mortars

Australian mortars land among the Vichy who are moving in on “B” company, casualties effectively stop this counter-attack from developing

Again Australian artillery hits the hill searching out the FOO

 Turn 7 Those survivors of the “B”  company platoons in retreat meet “C” company on the river bank, “C” companies commander moves to rally them.

His company are still under mortar fire

Australian artillery finally gets their man

 Turn 8 “A” company 2/27 AI arrive on table

“C” company begin to cross the river

 Turn 9 The Aussies reach the far bank and along with the remnants of “A” and “B” company begin to move forward, their mortars and artillery add support.

French launch an impressive counter-attack R-35s, H-35s, Legion infantry all suddenly bursting out of cover into the Australian infantry!

An MS406 strafes the 25ldr battery scattering their crews.

 Turn 10 The French tanks open up on the Australian infantry with devastating effect, this added to fire from the Legionnaires stops their advance cold.

The MS406 circles around and strafes “A” company 2/27 AI (despite AA Bren fire) who were forming up to try and cross the river, casualties included the company CO and his 2IC, I decided the company needed a morale check!

 Turn 11All companies across the river are in full retreat, and “A” 2/27 fail their morale check and go to ground

 Game over  


2/14th walked into a world of hurt and found themselves unable make headway against a determined enemy. On the morning of June 12th the Vichy launched a local counter-attack with R-35s under command of Commandant Rene Lehr (who had fought alongside the British at Dunkirk). This attack totally disrupted the 2/14th, but the tanks were unable to take advantage of the situation due to the presence of the Australian 25ldrs and some anti-tank guns which had moved up during the night. 

So in an attempt to break the deadlock 2/27th Battalion was committed and on the morning of June 13th they moved out across the river only to find the French had withdrawn leaving the crossing unopposed.




  1. An interesting AAR. Is there any advantage to the Australians having medical available?

    1. If this was part of a multiple scenario game then yes, they could recover casualties, here it is just table dressing.

  2. Nice AAR - thanks!! This is a very interesting campaign but, sadly, there aren’t too many books available on the subject. ☹️
    FWIW - Moshe Dayan lost an eye in the Lebanese campaign. Do you have any Jewish troops in your campaign set up? I’m sure they’d be a really diverse lot of troops.

    1. That is very kind. Yes, Moshe Dayan lost his eye in the opening hours of the campaign when he and some of his men assisted the British seize a border post. To be honest I`ve read very little about other Jewish units involved, though I guess there must have been some? From what i read about the incident with Moshe there was a great deal of distrust between the British and the Jewish comunity and not many Jews wanted to help. I do have Brits, Australians, Indians and Transjordan Frontier Force, so quite varied forces.

  3. Excellent AAR. I’m surprised the British didn’t use smoke to limit the incoming Vichy fire.
    Those thanks would have made for a major PITA and a real surprise. I have a boardgame on this campaign. I think I’m going to have to dig it out.

    1. I agree i should have used smoke, I got too carried away trying to eliminate the French FOO. From the brief account I found the Australians made a fairly haphazard attempt to cross the river without much planning or support. Whilst casualties were not huge, the initial attack stalled due to heavy fire from the French defenders and the tank counter-attack pushed 2/14 right back beyond their start line.

  4. Wonderful stuff Richard another Battle where the Vichy French slip away after an initial strong defence, thanks sharing your thoughts on e-mail earlier - just arranged for another care package from Perry's.
    Thanks for the inspiration I will be borrowing a number of your scenarios.

    1. Stuart - this game came literally from half a paragraph, I didn`t find any more info in any of my other books :) I Haven`t quite decided yet whether to slip off to Mexico or across the Med to Tunisia for my next game, we`ll see how the mood takes me. Thanks for all the kind comments and input, long may it continue, I look forward to see what you`ve bought off the Perrys.

  5. Replies
    1. Very kind, though mistakes were made - the Aussies really should have used smoke to mask their attack - hey ho :)

  6. Another interesting incident in Palestine / Syria front, and lovely figures / vehicles too. You have been busy staging games and recording your well laid out tabletops. Nice one. Carl

    1. Cheers Carl, I had a very productive writing period back in November and created 4 new games for Syria/Lebanon and another 4 for Mexico - should keep me busy for a while.

  7. Hello Richard,

    Always love your battle reports - you use single 20mm figures like I do, and you board setups use terrain similar to mine. It seems like a good scenario and naturally I am disapointed the Aussies lost but these things happen :-)

    1. Cheers Shaun, I had to be careful with the set-up so that the Aussies didn`t just walk all over the French. In the real action the Aussies of 2/14 were unable to break through due to the concentrated Vichy fire and then the tanks arrived and totally disrupted their attack. Scenario design is sometimes as important as the rules, etc.