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Czechoslovak Bn No 11

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Czechoslovak flag
Czechoslovak Infantry Battalion No 11 East

Czechoslovak forces in the Near East were organised into the Czechoslovak Infantry Battalion No 11 East on 1st November 1940 at Gedera camp, near Tel Aviv in Palestine.  Lt.-Col. Karel Klapalek was appointed commander of the battalion, which consisted of battalion headquarters, four rifle companies (each of three platoons) and a support company (machine-gun, signal, sapper, repair and transport platoons).  In early December 1940, the battalion underwent 11 weeks of acclimatisation in the Judean desert.  Following this, the battalion moved to Jericho and then to Egypt, to Sidi Bishr and Agami Camps.  Here the battalion undertook guard duties and was made up to full strength.  

The battalion moved to the Western Desert with British 23rd Infantry Brigade (with which it served from 30th May 1941 to 6th October 1941) on 31st May 1941 but was held in reserve near Matruh during Operation Battleaxe. The Czechs and Slovaks then moved to the Levant with 23rd Brigade to participate in Operation Exporter, following which they remained on duty in Syria until October. 

In August 1941, the Czechoslovak Ministry of National Defence had repeated its request for the battalion to be transferred to the Czechoslovak forces in Great Britain.  The British commander-in-chief rejected the request and, after a meeting with Lt.-Col. Klapalek, agreed to transfer the Battalion to the besieged Libyan port of Tobruk.  On 20th October the battalion was shipped into Tobruk where it served for the remainder of the siege under the Polish Carpathian Brigade, until around 13th December 1941. During the siege the battalion lost 14 soldiers killed and 81 wounded.  

Following the siege, the battalion stayed in the Tobruk area, first under XIII Corps, then 38th Indian Infantry Brigade until that brigade departed for Egypt on 27th March 1942.  On 7th April 1942, the battalion departed for Palestine for conversion to 200th Light Anti-Aircraft East Regiment in May. In 1943, there being no further need for its services, the regiment was sent to England and disbanded there.  Its troops eventually served with the Motor Battalion of the Czechoslovak 1st Armoured Brigade in France, 1944 to 1945.

 

Czechoslovak Infantry Battalion No 11 East

01-Oct-40 Formed at Gedera, nr Tel Aviv, Palestine, from former officers and men of the depot of the Czechoslovak

Army in France, reinforced by men from Russia.
Winter 1940 Transferred to Jericho for training.
Spring 1941 To Sidi Bishr Camp, Egypt, where reinforced by further arrivals from Russia.
May-42 Spring of 1942, disbanded in Palestine, the effectives immediately included in the newly raised 200th

(Czechoslovak) Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment-East
       

Higher formations served under
                     

HQ British Forces in Palestine & 01-Oct-40 24-Feb-41

Trans-Jordan

HQ British Troops Egypt 24-Feb-41 30-May-41

23 Infantry Brigade 30-May-41 06-Oct-41

Polish Ind Carpathian Rifle Brigade 29-Aug-41 13-Dec-41 attached

XIII Corps 10-Dec-41 31-Dec-41 B Coy as HQ

protection coy for XIII

Corps. A, C and D

Coys guard Tobruk,

using captured Italian

artillery

38 Indian Infantry Brigade 31-Dec-41 27-Mar-42
           

Theatres

Palestine 01-Nov-40 24-Feb-41

Egypt 24-Feb-41 27-Jun-41

Syria 28-Jun-41 18-Oct-41

Libya 20-Oct-41 07-Apr-42

Palestine      Apr-42     May-42

 

 

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Sources:

Roubicek, Marcel, Echo of the Bugle, extinct military and constabulary forces in Palestine and Trans-Jordan 1915,1967, Franciscan (Jerusalem 1974)

Military History Society - West, The History Of The Czechoslovak Foreign Army In The West, http://www.geocities.com/regimentwest/HistoryENG.html

Thanks to Jan Hyrman, Bill Stone and David A Ryan.

See also: 
The Czechoslovak Philatelic Society of Great Britain
The Rats of Tobruk Association

 

25 February 2012

 

Contact Steve Rothwell with comments and additional information