Wednesday, October 28, 2015
The political situation in Syria in late July to August 1941
The Free French seem to have been a creature of Churchill. The Australians were very cool towards the Free French organization and had better feelings for the Vichy French than they did for the Free French. As early as 21 July 1941, the Free French wanted access to more of Syria. General Wilson broached the subject with General Lavarack, the Australian corps commander. In fact, the Free French were moving troops without permission. General Lavarack informed General Wilson that many Vichy troops would join the British, but wanted nothing to do with the Free French organization. General Lavarack told General Wilson that the Free French movements were jeopardizing the "security situation". One particular problem was that the Free French thought that they should have the civil administration of Syria under their control, which was not what had been agreed upon for obvious reasons. The Vichy French were obeying the terms of the Armistice, but the Free French were not. The British were apparently ready to undercut General Lavarack's authority to satisfy Churchill and General De Gaulle. Another sticking point was that the Free French wanted to take over all Vichy French war materials for their use, while General Lavarack wanted to be able to resupply the Australians from the Vichy French supplies and arms. Eventually, eight convoys sailed from Syria to France with some 37,500 passengers, mostly troops. 5,668 Vichy French troops joined the Free French out of 37,700 troops. By late August, the Free French division was disbanded due to lack of men. The Free French troops were divided into districts, instead. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.