Thursday, May 22, 2014
Syria: just when there seemed to be nothing left to use
By May 1941, there was an urgent need to rebuild divisions, repair warships, and bring in fresh air units and aircraft. Instead, there was a new military commitment to cover. At this time, the VIchy commander in Syria was General Henri Dentz. He had some 28,000 troops under his command. At this time, General de Gaulle was lobbying to get permission to attack Syria with his meager Free French force. So, when the CIGS, General Dill, warned of a possible German airborne attack on Syria, that was enough to push General Wavell into action. Already, by early May, General Dentz had been ordered by his government to allow German and Italian aircraft to overfly Syria and to shoot at British aircraft. By 12 May, there was news of German aircraft landing in Damascus. Air Marshall Tedder wsa the new British RAF commander in the Middle East. He was authorized to take action in response. British aircraft bombed the airfield at Damascus and shortly afterwards, two more. There was now more readiness to let General de Gaulle attack Syria with his small force of six battalions. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.