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"Australian Ski Troops" Topic

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ezza12325 May 2023 9:37 a.m. PST

Spotted these pictures of Australian ski troops training in Lebanon in late-1941 – see penultimate page PDF link

Managed to find a bit more information about these troops:

The Australian Corps Ski School was established in the Lebanese mountains of Syria at the end of 1941. The intention was to train Australian troops serving on garrison duty in that country to serve as ski troops, giving them greater mobility in the otherwise almost impassable conditions of the Syrian winter. The school was placed under the command of Major (later Lieutenant Colonel) Robert Watkin Savage, a signals officer who was also an accomplished skier and bush walker. A staff of ten, including some of Australia's best skiers, as well as foreigners such as British Olympic competitor Major James Riddell, were brought together to provide expert tuition. Two courses, each of about 50 students, were trained, approximately half being judged competent at the end of their course. The entry of Japan into the war, and changing priorities in North Africa, meant that the Australian ski experiment was short lived. After only three months, the school was closed [in December 1941], and its staff returned to their units.

Uniform worn by staff and pupils was sourced locally within Syria, and comprised white canvas trousers and pullover jacket, which were worn over the normal Australian woollen service dress. A white cotton peaked cap and mittens were also supplied. Clothing was waterproofed using a copper sulphate solution which gave the white clothing a characteristic pale blue-green tint.

Source: link

In 1941 Australian troops formed the majority of the British and Commonwealth forces taking part in their invasion of Vichy French held Syria. For the second time in 23 years – the Australian Infantryman was fighting the enemy in the "Holy Land".

The Australian 7th Division consisted the main Allied force in the bloody 5 week campaign against Vichy French, French Colonial and French Foreign Legionaires. The hilly and difficult terrain and conditions providing excellent defensive positions for the enemy.

Within the mountainous area inland from the Mediterranean Sea the high country of Syria and Lebanon is regulary under snowy conditions during the Winter months. The Australian command, realising the need for some form of mobile Infantry in snow country, formed the nucleus of a ski patrol from Australians with experience of ski-ing. Volunteers were sought from within the Division, snow equipment was provided from various sources and training staff allocated.

At the Cedars, one of the snow places of Lebanon, the ski patrol had its training camp, and in a short time had built up a force ready to take the field under Syria's most trying conditions. Their main purpose was reconaissance and patrolling of the mountinous range.

Fortunately, the ski patrol did not have to be used operationally against the enemy. They were disbanded late in 1941 and were placed back into their 'home' units within the 7th Division in time for their embarkation for another diverse, and mountainous battlefield. . .the Kokoda Trail.

Source: link

So whilst these ski troops were not deployed operationally, it could make for an interesting what-if scenario. After all who would be expecting a group of skiing Aussies to arrive on the table?


Frederick Supporting Member of TMP25 May 2023 10:55 a.m. PST

Australian ski troops – who would have thought?

Great find!

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP25 May 2023 11:08 a.m. PST

Not me, that's for sure.

The first link doesn't work for me.

Richard Baber25 May 2023 11:26 a.m. PST


Arjuna25 May 2023 11:29 a.m. PST

Under the command of…
Major Savage!

Cerdic25 May 2023 12:39 p.m. PST

That's right up there with the Jamaican bob sleigh team…

Personal logo ochoin Supporting Member of TMP25 May 2023 1:52 p.m. PST

Now, gentlemen. Don't make a virtue out of your ignorance.
I still go skiing in OZ on a regular basis as, there ARE ski resorts here! And plenty of snow in the Australian Alps.


And I believe the ADF Combat Survival Training School run a three day Cold Weather Survival Course in the Victorian Alps once a year from memory. Primarily directed at aircrew but I think it's open to anyone. And I'm also sure the SAS have training there too.

ezza12325 May 2023 2:22 p.m. PST

Sorry about the first link, try this one:



Personal logo Dal Gavan Supporting Member of TMP25 May 2023 2:30 p.m. PST

And I believe the ADF Combat Survival Training School run a three day Cold Weather Survival Course in the Victorian Alps once a year from memory. Primarily directed at aircrew but I think it's open to anyone. And I'm also sure the SAS have training there too.

The army also trains in NZ (Army lost a digger to exposure a few years ago) and Europe (the Special People), mate. The RAAF may also go to such places, but that would only be to "test drive" the chalets, restaurants and drinking establishments in case they may one day be deployed there.

Heedless Horseman Supporting Member of TMP26 May 2023 11:47 a.m. PST

Of course there is snow in Australia. Why else, Snowy Mountains?

Cerdic27 May 2023 6:58 a.m. PST

Ochoin – don't let accuracy ruin a good stereotype!

I promise it really does rain in England every day…and twice in Wales…!

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