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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: August 2013

4 - At the peak: 1942–43


The 9th Division experienced much less organisational turbulence than the 50th during its nine months out of action. New commanders were appointed to most of the 9th's battalions, but these were all experienced men and most came from within the division. The 9th also successfully absorbed several new units that had not served with the division in Tobruk. After some time in the Australian base camps in Palestine, the 9th deployed to Syria as part of the Allied garrison in the French colony. Training began soon after the 9th returned from Tobruk, and accelerated when the division moved to Syria. Fitness, a weakness in Tobruk, was strongly emphasised, with long route marches being prominent in battalion training programs.

Yet training in the 9th Division was hindered by other tasks. Aside from construction work on the defences of Tripoli, the 9th Division was widely dispersed in defensive positions in northern Syria, guarding against the possibility of a German thrust through the Caucasus or a Turkish invasion. These dispositions prevented the division from training collectively. The Arabs in Syria were restive, and Morshead was forced to send some of his units on flag-showing expeditions. The division's equipment situation was not much better than it had been in Tobruk. There was also some uncertainty about the nature of the division's future employment, and this was reflected in the training program. Some mountain warfare training was done, appropriate to the Syrian conditions. On the other hand, the division might have gone home to fight the Japanese, and Morshead was already investigating jungle warfare tactics and training methods. Morshead realised that the 9th needed above all to improve its standard of combined arms work, especially in attack, and lectures on supporting arms (armour, artillery, machine-guns and so on) were an important feature of infantry training in Syria.

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