Monday, December 10, 2018

The food shortage in Syria and wrong-minded British command priorities

Some steps had been implemented as early as Fall of 1941 had helped the food situation. There was the "Spears' Mission wheat plan". We can understand the natural desire to hoard what is scarce. Having a political leader hoarding food, as Suleiman Murshed was thought to be doing, only aggravated the situation. The United Kingdom Convention Commissioner thought that the Alaouite leader was the best person to receive aid and distribute it, but the British military were concerned that he  might just add to his personal cache in his village. A plan was floated that had the commissioner selling wheat to the poor. The comment was that part of the problem were "wartime profiteers" that they thought should be controlled. All these issues were ready grist for the Axis propaganda mill.
Other initiatives included supplying Syrian workers involved with road and defense construction with ten pounds of flour per week. They had started this step when the men were first hired. Another step was handled by the 2/17th Battalion. They were responsible for distributing five thousand pounds of flour to the poor near Raju. The flour was supplied by the American Red Cross, after requests made by the 2/17th Battalion.
One major change happened when most of "the New Zealand Division arrived in Syria". A New Zealand brigade was sent to "the Djedeide fortress". A second brigade was sent to  Aleppo, freeing up the 20th Australian Brigade. That allowed the concentration of the 20th Brigade "around Latakia". The arrival of the New Zealand Divsion allowed the 9th Australian Division to be better concentrated. They did not have to distribute "detachments east of the Orontes River."
General Auchinleck was concerned about the lack of British strength in the north. He felt that they needed to take steps to look stronger than they really were as a preventive measure. This sort of thinking was foreign to General Morshead, who was irritated by the need to "create the illusion of strength". This is based on the account n Vol.III of the Australian Offiicial History.

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