About the Book

Litani River is the story of No.11 (Scottish) Commando’s daring raid behind enemy lines during Operation Exporter in Syria in 1941. The book follows the unit’s officers and men from its formation in Galashiels, through arduous commando training on the Isle of Arran; and on to the Middle East via Cape Town and Cyprus.

The story climax’s with the Commando taking part in the first opposed amphibious landing on an occupied shore by a complete Commando Force. Tasked to land from the sea and attack the enemy from the rear, securing and holding the ground around the Litani River, enabling the advancing 21st Australian Brigade to cross the river and advance on to Beirut.

Divided into three parties, X, Y and Z, they run into difficulties immediately; in rough seas and with the danger of their landing craft capsizing, the landing is aborted in clear view of the enemy. The second attempt the following night also has its problems, and instead of landing behind the enemy they are landed in front and are left with no option but to mount frontal assaults against heavily armed and fortified enemy troops who know exactly when and from where they were coming.

Chaotic and confused fighting follows with disastrous results for the unit; of the 406 men that landed 130 are killed or wounded in nearly 29 hours of fighting, for which they only had enough ammunition and food to last eight. Among those killed in action was the Commanding Officer, however, despite being out numbered and suffering incredible misfortune and difficulties they were able to hold the line long enough for the Australians to cross the river and continue with their advance to Beirut. For their gallantry four Military Crosses, one Military Medal and two Distinguished Conduct Medals were awarded.

The book tells the story from the words of the men themselves, through official reports, personal recollections, and from a series of interviews and correspondence with surviving members of the Commando.

Ian McHarg is a former Army Commando who lives in the Cotswolds with his wife Donna and black lab Jake.