Australia’s War with France
The campaign in Syria and Lebanon, 1941
By Richard James
Published by Big Sky Publishing
RRP $29.99 in paperback • ISBN 9781925520927
I must confess to having little knowledge of this campaign and judging from the remarks by the author, I’m not alone.
Australia and France were allies at the commencement of the Second World War but this changed somewhat after the Germans overran France. The new French Government, installed at Vichy, was answerable to Adolf Hitler.
Richard James travelled to Lebanon to discover why Australian troops from the 7th Division were engaged in a campaign in Lebanon and Syria against French Vichy troops.
Britain’s Winston Churchill was deeply concerned that Syria and Lebanon, still under the control of the French Vichy government, could soon fall into the hands of the Germans.
Urged on by the Free French leader Charles de Gaulle, British General Archibald Wavell was instructed to bring a swift resolution to the situation. Wavell’s forces were fully stretched at the time and so he turned to the Australian 7th Division to assist his British troops.
Unfortunately, nobody told the French Vichy troops and the Australians were soon involved in a bitter struggle against an army from a country they had helped defend only a generation earlier.
My father’s war records showed that he spent some time in Syria and Lebanon in mid 1941 and I had often wondered why. This intriguing and well researched book by Richard James now provides me with some answers. This is a very well written history of a little-known and overlooked conflict.