Tuesday, October 20, 2015

General Catroux lost his kepi to an Australian on 12 July 1941

The Free French General Catroux was the barracks at Acre for the armistice signing on 12 July 1941. He had left his Oak Leaf kepi on the seat of his car. When he returned, he noticed that it was gone. He knew about the Australians and figured that an Australian soldier had made a trophy of the hat. He did tell the camp commandant and others about the kepi, but he figured it was gone for good. He was good-natured enough to not be bothered by the incident. He had a lot of experience with the Foreign Legion, and they were very much like the Australians. As the general said: "what was taken by them was taken for good." General Wilson was "delighted" by the news. General Lavarack smiled when he heard about the missing kepi. The Vichy officers talked among themselves and thought that General Latroux was the victim of the bad company he kept. The Vichy General de Verdilhac returned to his side after midnight, at 1:30am on 13 July 1941. A column moved forward on the coastal road on 15 July. The column consisted of the 2/5th Battalion, some artillery, and some cavalry troops. They were not to enter Beirut, but to bypass the city on their way north to Latakia. The 2/16th Battalion and part of the 6th Cavalry Regiment got to enter Beirut on 15 July. They were cheered by the populace who assumed that they would have independence. The ceremonial entrance by the Allied generals happened at 10:30am on 16 July. They had 24 Bren carriers and some field guns. The next step would be spreading out the force to occupy Syria and Lebanon. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

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