Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Politics behind the invasion of Syria and Lebanon on 8 June 1941
Some in the British and Free French camp hoped to win in Syria and Lebanon through the use of politics rather than force. On 8 June 1941, the British ambassador to Egypt, along with General Catroux of the Free French, broadcast radio messages to the people of Lebanon and Syria. They offered them freedom from the French in exchange for their cooperation against the Vichy and German forces. They promised a treaty negotiation to formalize that promise. The situation in Syria and Lebanon was such that the Vichy forces outnumbered the Australian, Indian, and Free French forces. The Vichy French had their 18 battalions of good quality against nine British, Australian, and Indian battalions. There were also six Free French battalions, but the Australian Official History thought that they were "of doubtful quality". Apparently Churchill had expected that this campaign could be won by political moves, which proved to be mistaken. Much of 1941 was filled with miscalculations by the British prime minister and he lurched from disaster to disaster. One of the few bright spots of 1941 was the sinking of the Bismarck, after the Bismarck had sunk the Hood and damaged the Prince of Wales. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.