|Czechoslovak 11th Infantry Battalion – East|
|Active||World War II|
|Engagements|| Syria–Lebanon Campaign,|
Siege of Tobruk
|Lt-Col Karel Klapálek, DSO|
|Lt-Col Karel Klapálek, DSO|
The Czechoslovak 11th Infantry Battalion – East (Czech : 11. československý pěší prapor — Východní) was a Czechoslovak infantry battalion in the Second World War. It served under the British Middle East Command in the Mediterranean and Middle East Theatre.
Czech, historically also Bohemian, is a West Slavic language of the Czech–Slovak group. Spoken by over 10 million people, it serves as the official language of the Czech Republic. Czech is closely related to Slovak, to the point of mutual intelligibility to a very high degree. Like other Slavic languages, Czech is a fusional language with a rich system of morphology and relatively flexible word order. Its vocabulary has been extensively influenced by Latin and German.
The Czechoslovak Army was the name of the armed forces of Czechoslovakia. It was established in 1918 following Czechoslovakia's independence from Austria-Hungary.
Infantry is the branch of an army that engages in military combat on foot, distinguished from cavalry, artillery, and tank forces. Also known as foot soldiers, infantry traditionally relies on moving by foot between combats as well, but may also use mounts, military vehicles, or other transport. Infantry make up a large portion of all armed forces in most nations, and typically bear the largest brunt in warfare, as measured by casualties, deprivation, or physical and psychological stress.
Several thousand Czechoslovak soldiers served in the Battle of France. 206 Czechoslovak Army volunteers were in Beirut, Lebanon, waiting to be posted to join the Czechoslovak 1st Infantry Division in France when France capitulated to Nazi Germany. Vichy France could have interned the men and surrendered them to the German military authorities, had not the Czechoslovak Consul-General in Jerusalem secured visas for them to move to Mandatory Palestine.
The Battle of France, also known as the Fall of France, was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries during the Second World War. In the six weeks from 10 May 1940, German forces defeated Allied forces by mobile operations and conquered France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, bringing land operations on the Western Front to an end until 6 June 1944. Italy entered the war on 10 June 1940 and invaded France over the Alps.
Beirut is the capital and largest city of Lebanon. No recent population census has been conducted, but 2007 estimates ranged from slightly more than 1 million to 2.2 million as part of Greater Beirut. Located on a peninsula at the midpoint of Lebanon's Mediterranean coast, Beirut is the country's largest and main seaport.
The State of Greater Lebanon was a state declared on 1 September 1920, which became the Lebanese Republic in May 1926, and is the predecessor of modern Lebanon.
The Czechoslovaks were housed in a camp at Al-Sumayriyya north of Acre. Further arrivals increased the group to 280 and it was formed into the 4th Infantry Regiment as part of the Czechoslovak 1st Infantry Division. The regiment was then transferred south to a camp at Gedera near Tel Aviv to be armed and trained.On 1 October 1940 at Gedera the regiment was reconstituted as the 11th Infantry Battalion. Lt-Col Karel Klapálek was appointed commanding officer.
Al-Sumayriyya, was a Palestinian village located six kilometers north of Acre that was depopulated after it was captured by the Israel Defense Forces during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
Acre, known to locals as Akko or Akka, is a city in the coastal plain region of the Northern District of Israel.
Gedera, or Gdera, is a town in the Central District of Israel founded in 1884. It is located 13 kilometres south of Rehovot. In 2017, it had a population of 27,498.
In December 1940 the battalion received acclimatization training and then was posted to Egypt, where it was assigned guard duty at camps first at Sidi Bishr and then at Agami. On 30 May it was put under the command of the British 23rd Infantry Brigade and posted to Sidi Haneish near Mersa Matruh.
The Kingdom of Egypt was the de jure independent Egyptian state established under the Muhammad Ali Dynasty in 1922 following the Unilateral Declaration of Egyptian Independence by the United Kingdom. Until the Anglo-Egyptian treaty of 1936, the Kingdom was only nominally independent, since the British retained control of foreign relations, communications, the military and the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. Between 1936 and 1952, the British continued to maintain military presence and political advisers, at a reduced level.
Sidi Bishr is a neighborhood in the Montaza District of Alexandria, Egypt. Established as a summering site by the Egyptian middle class before the Revolution of 1952, it has since become one of the largest neighborhoods of the city.
Agami is a city in the Alexandria Governorate of Egypt. Situated 20 km west of Alexandria, the town is a popular destination for both local Alexandrians and tourists in Giza and Cairo.
In June and July 1941 the 23rd Infantry Brigade, including the Czechoslovak 11th Infantry Battalion, fought in the Allied invasion of Syria and Lebanon. In August the battalion was stationed on Syria's border with Turkey.
The Syria–Lebanon campaign, also known as Operation Exporter, was the British invasion of Vichy French Syria and Lebanon from June–July 1941, during the Second World War. The French had ceded autonomy to Syria in September 1936, with the right to maintain armed forces and two airfields in the territory.
In August 1941 the Czechoslovak government-in-exile asked for the 11th Battalion to be moved to Britain to be united with Czechoslovak forces there. The British military authorities refused,and instead on 6 October 1941 transferred the battalion from the 23rd Infantry Brigade to the Polish Independent Carpathian Rifle Brigade, which was besieged in Tobruk in Libya. The battalion served at Tobruk for 158 days, including 51 in combat.
The Czechoslovak government-in-exile, sometimes styled officially as the Provisional Government of Czechoslovakia, was an informal title conferred upon the Czechoslovak National Liberation Committee, initially by British diplomatic recognition. The name came to be used by other World War II Allies as they subsequently recognised it. The Committee was originally created by the former Czechoslovak President, Edvard Beneš in Paris, France, in October 1939. Unsuccessful negotiations with France for diplomatic status, as well as the impending Nazi occupation of France, forced the Committee to withdraw to London in 1940. The Czechoslovak Government-in-Exile offices were at various locations in London but mainly at a building called Fursecroft.
Polish Independent Carpathian Brigade was a Polish military unit formed in 1940 in French Syria composed of the Polish soldiers exiled after the invasion of Poland in 1939 as part of the Polish Army in France. It was commanded by General Stanisław Kopański.
The Siege of Tobruk lasted for 241 days in 1941, after Axis forces advanced through Cyrenaica from El Agheila in Operation Sonnenblume against Allied forces in Libya, during the Western Desert Campaign (1940–1943) of the Second World War. In late 1940, the Allies had defeated the Italian 10th Army during Operation Compass (9 December 1940 – 9 February 1941) and trapped the remnants at Beda Fomm. During early 1941, much of the Western Desert Force (WDF) was sent to the Greek and Syrian campaigns. As German troops and Italian reinforcements reached Libya, only a skeleton Allied force remained, short of equipment and supplies.
At the end of December 1941 the battalion was withdrawn to the rear and transferred to the 38th Indian Infantry Brigade.In April 1942 the battalion was returned to Palestine and in May it was reorganised as the 200th Czechoslovak Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, with Karel Klapálek continuing as its commander.
The 2008 Czech film Tobruk portrays a Czechoslovak battalion in the Siege of Tobruk in 1941. The film won a Czech Lion Award.
Operation Compass was the first large Allied military operation of the Western Desert Campaign (1940–1943) during the Second World War. British and other Commonwealth and Allied forces attacked Italian forces in western Egypt and Cyrenaica, the eastern province of Libya, from December 1940 to February 1941. The Western Desert Force with about 36,000 men, advanced from Mersa Matruh in Egypt on a five-day raid against the Italian positions of the 10th Army, which had about 150,000 men in fortified posts around Sidi Barrani in Egypt and in Cyrenaica.
Operation Sonnenblume was the name given to the dispatch of German troops to North Africa in February 1941, during the Second World War. German troops reinforced the remaining Italian forces in Libya, after the Italian 10th Army was destroyed by British attacks during Operation Compass (9 December 1940 – 9 February 1941). The first units departed Naples for Africa and arrived on 11 February. On 14 February, the first units of the 5th Light Afrika Division, Aufklärungsbataillon 3 and Panzerjägerabteilung 39 arrived in Tripoli, Libya and were sent immediately to the front line at Sirte.
The 1st Czechoslovak Independent Armoured Brigade Group was an armoured unit of expatriate Czechoslovaks organised and equipped by the United Kingdom during the Second World War in 1943.
The Essex Regiment was a line infantry regiment of the British Army in existence from 1881 to 1958. The regiment served in many conflicts such as the Second Boer War and both World War I and World War II, serving with distinction in all three. It was formed in 1881 under the Childers Reforms by the amalgamation of the 44th Regiment of Foot and the 56th Regiment of Foot.
The 23rd Infantry Brigade was an infantry brigade of the British Army that saw active service in both World War I, mainly on the Western Front, and World War II. In the Second World War the brigade saw active service in the Syria-Lebanon Campaign, the Western Desert Campaign and the Burma Campaign.
The 2/11th Battalion was an infantry battalion of the Australian Army which saw service during World War II. Raised shortly after the outbreak of war in 1939, the 2/11th was formed from Second Australian Imperial Force volunteers who were recruited mainly from the state of Western Australia. Assigned to the 6th Division, the 2/11th completed its training in Western Australia and New South Wales before deploying to the Middle East in 1940. Its first action came around Bardia in early January 1941, and this was followed by further actions in Libya, and then Greece and on Crete during which the 2/11th suffered heavy losses. After being re-formed, in late 1941 the battalion was deployed to Syria to undertake garrison duties there. In early 1942, it was brought back to Australia to help bolster the country's defences following Japanese advances in the Pacific, and it subsequently undertook defensive duties in Western Australia. The 2/11th did not see combat again until the final year of the war when it was committed to the Aitape–Wewak campaign. It was disbanded after the war in late 1945.
The 10th Indian Infantry Division was a war formed infantry division of the Indian Army during World War II. In four years, the division travelled over 4,000 miles (6,400 km) from Tehran to Trieste, fought three little wars, and fought two great campaigns: Anglo-Iraqi War, Invasion of Syria-Lebanon, Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran, North African Campaign, and Italian Campaign.
Brigadier Ronald Gervase Mountain was an officer in the British Indian Army during World War I and World War II.
The 1st Czechoslovak Army Corps was a military formation of the Czechoslovak Army in exile fighting on the Eastern Front alongside the Soviet Red Army in World War II.
The Italian invasion of Egypt was an offensive in the Second World War, against British, Commonwealth and Free French forces. The invasion by the Italian 10th Army ended border skirmishing on the frontier and began the Western Desert Campaign (1940–1943) proper. The goal of the Italian forces in Libya was to seize the Suez Canal by advancing along the Egyptian coast. After numerous delays, the scope of the offensive was reduced to an advance as far as Sidi Barrani, with attacks on British forces in the area.
This is the order of battle for the Syria-Lebanon Campaign, a World War II campaign between the Western Allies and Vichy France during June and July, 1941.
The 64th Infantry Division Catanzaro was an auto-transportable Infantry Division of the Italian Army during World War II. The Catanzaro Division was created 3 June 1940 in Acroma, Libya and was destroyed 5 January 1941 in Bardia. The Catanzaro was classified as an auto-transportable division, meaning staff and equipment could be transported on cars and trucks, although not simultaneously.
The 19th Brigade was a formation of the Australian Army that was raised as part of the Second Australian Imperial Force for service during World War II. It was briefly raised in 1912 as a Militia formation providing training as part of the compulsory training scheme. Later, during World War II, the brigade was established in April 1940 in Palestine as a triangular formation, the brigade was created by transferring one infantry battalion from three other brigades. It was subsequently assigned to the 6th Division. Throughout 1941, the brigade fought in North Africa, Greece and on Crete, before undertaking garrison duties in Syria, remaining there until January 1942. Following the Japanese entry into the war, the 19th Brigade was withdrawn to Australia and subsequently undertook garrison duties in Darwin. It did not see combat again until late in the war, when it was committed to the Aitape–Wewak campaign in 1944–1945. The brigade was disbanded in December 1945 in Puckapunyal.
Major-General Cyril Ernest Napier Lomax & Two Bars, MC was an officer in the British Army during the First World War and Second World War. During the latter he commanded the 16th Infantry Brigade in North Africa and the Middle East, and later commanded the 26th Indian Infantry Division in the Burma Campaign, gaining the approval of Field Marshal Sir William Slim.
The 2/28th Battalion was an infantry battalion of the Australian Army, which served during the Second World War. Formed in mid-1940 from Western Australian volunteers, the battalion served in North Africa in 1941–42 as part of the 24th Brigade, which was assigned to the 9th Division. The battalion's first major engagement came during the Siege of Tobruk, where the battalion carried out defensive duties as part of the garrison for over six months before being withdrawn by sea. After undertaking occupation duties in Syria and Lebanon, the 2/28th took part in the First Battle of El Alamein in mid-1942 during which it was heavily depleted, and had to be rebuilt prior to its commitment to the Second Battle of El Alamein later in the year. In early 1943, the battalion returned to Australia and later took part in campaigns against the Japanese in New Guinea in 1943–44, where it was committed to capturing Lae, and then clearing the Huon Peninsula, and then retaking Borneo in 1945. After the war, the battalion was disbanded in early 1946.
Karel Klapálek, CBE, DSO was a Czechoslovak Army general and a veteran of the Czechoslovak Legion in the Russian Empire. He fought in both World Wars and was decorated with numerous national honours.
Eugène Mittelhauser was a French general, leader of the French Military Mission to Czechoslovakia and second Chief of staff of Czechoslovak Army from 1921 to 1925.