Monday, February 23, 2015

Some perspective on the beginning of the campaign from 9 to 14 June 1941

From the beginning of the campaign in Syria and Lebanon from 9 June 1941, the air force had some success. At the start, the RAF was weaker than the Vichy French air force. The RAF had many responsibilities: close air support to the army, air protection to the navy offshore, offensive operations against the French on their airfields, attacking French ports, and attacks on fuel supplies. There were some early successes. No.3 Squadron RAAF caught six French aircraft on the ground at Rayak and damaged them. Blenheim day bombers attacked oil tanks at Beirut. No.3 Squadron, RAAF was equipped with American Tomahawk fighters. They were often providing air cover to the navy off of Lebanon. They shot down three of eight Ju-88's on 14 June.

Given the strong French defence in Syria and Lebanon, the CIGS, General Dill, suggested to General Wavell that they divert forces from Iraq to Syria, and that they use bombers from Egypt. That was very much in line with what General Wavell already had decided. General Wavell told General Dill on 12 June that the attack was progressing slowly, but that was not unexpected, given the rough terrain and inadequate force employed. The 16th British Brigade was ordered to Syria to increase the force employed to approximately equal the strength of the French defenders. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

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