Military History

This Week in History | Week 25

By The Cove June 15, 2020

Week 25 | 15 - 21 June


16 June 1948 | Malayan Emergency declared

On the morning of 16 June 1948, three European estate managers were murdered in two separate incidents in the Malaysian state of Perak by members of the Malayan Communist Party (MCP). That evening, the British declared a state of emergency in several districts of Perak and Johore which were extended the following day to the whole of the two states. On the 18th of June a state of emergency was declared for all of Malaya. The Malayan Emergency had begun.

The Australian involvement in Malayan Emergency lasted from 1950 to 1960. A total of 39 Australian servicemen died in this conflict.


18 June 1953 | Australian prisoners of war of the Korean War released at Panmunjon

During the Korean War, thirty Australian servicemen were captured by North Korean or Chinese forces. Twenty-four of those taken prisoner were serving with the Australian Army while six members of the Royal Australian Air Force were also captured.

The Australian prisoners were released at Panmunjon during Operation 'Big Switch' as part of the ongoing ceasefire negotiations. 

Of the thirty Australians, only one, Private H. W. Madden, died in captivity. Madden was posthumously awarded the George Cross. The citation reads:

Private Madden was captured by Chinese Communist Forces on 24th April, 1951, near Kapyong. He was a signaller attached to Battalion Headquarters at the time and received concussion prior to capture.

Private Madden was held prisoner by the enemy until about 6th November, 1951, when he died of malnutrition and the result of ill-treatment. During this period he openly resisted all enemy efforts to force him to collaborate, to such a degree that his name and example were widely known through the various groups of prisoners. Testimonials have been provided by Officers and men from many units of the Commonwealth and Allied Forces which show that the heroism he displayed was quite outstanding.

Despite repeated beatings and many other forms of ill-treatment inflicted because of his defiance to his captors, Private Madden remained cheerful and optimistic. Although deprived of food because of his behaviour, resulting in severe malnutrition, he was known to share his meagre supplies purchased from Koreans with other prisoners who were sick.

It would have been apparent to Private Madden that to pursue this course must eventually result in his death. This did not deter him, and for over six months, although becoming progressively weaker, he remained undaunted in his resistance. He would in no way co-operate with the enemy. This gallant soldier's outstanding heroism was an inspiration to all his fellow prisoners.


19 June 1941 | Battle of Merdjayoun

The Battle of Merdjayoun took place during the Syria-Lebanon Campaign from 19–24 June 1941 between Vichy French and predominantly Australian Allied forces in and near the Lebanese town of Merdjayoun.

Australian 25th Brigade forces entered Merdjayoun on 11 June 1941 with little resistance, after which the majority of the Brigade was diverted north to attack Jezzine, leaving a small force based around the 2/33rd Battalion to hold Merdjayoun. Following a strong counter-attack, the Australians were forced to withdraw south on 15 June. In the ensuing battle, Allied troops successfully defended the pass leading back to Palestine and recaptured the town early on 24 June. The 7th Australian Division was reinforced by units from the 6th Australian Division.

The 2/5th Australian Field Regiment was a unit in the relief column. Lieutenant Arthur Roden (later Sir Roden) Cutler repeatedly engaged enemy tanks, enemy infantry, enemy anti-tank, and enemy machine posts with his 25-pounder field gun, his Boys anti-tank rifle, his Bren gun, and his .303 rifle. He later lost his leg during the Battle of Damour, but was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions at both Merdjayoun and Damour. Cutler is the only Australian artilleryman to ever been awarded the VC. He later became the longest serving Governor of New South Wales.


21 June 1941 | Damascus occupied

The Battle of Damascus (18–21 June 1941) was the final action of the Allied advance on Damascus in Syria during the Syria–Lebanon Campaign. The initial advance was undertaken by Indian troops who were tasked with capturing Mezzeh while Free French forces were to capture Qadam. While the Free French were held up, the Indian troops were able to capture Mezzeh and then became cut off following a Vichy French counter-attack. British and Australian reinforcements were brought up and throughout 19–20 June, the Indian troops holding Mezzeh continued to hold out despite running low of ammunition and rations. Late on 20 June, Australian troops attempted to relieve them and entered the town, arriving to find that the town was deserted as the remaining Indian troops had been captured by the Vichy French and removed from the town earlier in the day. The following day, the Free French, supported by British and Australian troops, captured Qadam and throughout 21 June further actions were fought around the Quneitra road and the Barada Gorge. By mid-morning on 21 June the Vichy French garrison in Damascus surrendered to the Allied forces.




The Cove

The home of the Australian Profession of Arms.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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