Monday, November 02, 2015

A New Difficulty in Syria in August 1941

By August 1941, there were still Australian, Indian, and British prisoners in French and Italian hands. This became an issue between the British command in Jerusalem and the Australian officers in charge in Syria and Lebanon. The control committee demanded that these prisoners be returned by 5 August 1941. Three sets of letters were drafted. One was for General Dentz and two others were for two other French generals. Brigadier Savige was to arrest General Dentz. He asked for freedom to handle the situation as he felt best. He substituted a French-speaking junior Australian officer for the Free French Lieutenant-Colonel. Eventually, General Dentz was arrested and the situation was handled as well as was possible. General Dentz was at first uncooperative, but the courtesies offered to him by the Australians impressed him that he should cooperate.

When the officers sent to arrest General Jennequin, they found he was absent. They eventually found him in Tripoli. He eventually cooperated and was taken to Jerusalem by Colonel Stevenson. Brigadier Plant had a good relationship with the other general, General Arlabosse. He took him to General Lavarack's headquarters and then he went on to Jerusalem. There 35 French officers there under guard by the time all had arrived. The Allied prisoners from France arrived in Beirut by ship on 15 August. The prisoners from Scarpanto arrived by 30 September. General Dentz and the other senior officers then were sent to France in September. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

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