Britain invades French occupied Syria

The invasion of Syria was probably the last time that cavalry units of the British army were engaged on operations - mainly in a reconnaissance role.

The campaign in Syria attracted relatively little attention, partly because it was overshadowed by the invasion of Russia. The Australian 7th Division which led the invasion started to refer to itself as the ‘silent seventh’ because of the lack of publicity it received.

Unexpected resistance was received from French forces loyal to the Vichy regime in France. Fighting was especially bitter when they confronted Free French troops who were part of the invading force.

Palestine and Syria.

On 8th June our troops, with Free French troops on their right, advanced into Syria in four columns. French opposition was encountered, but by 10th June we had reached a line Kiswe (15 miles South of Damascus) Merdjayum- mouth of River Litani. Merdjayum, which guards the valley between the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon, was captured by our troops during the afternoon of 11th June, and by the evening of that day our left column was reported to be one mile south of Sidon.

Our aircraft have co-operated with land and naval forces in the advance into Syria, which began on the morning of the 8th June. Blenheims made daylight attacks on the aerodromes at Aleppo, Damascus and Palmyra; hangars and buildings were hit and a number of aircraft destroyed on the ground. Five Tomahawks carried out a machine-gun attack at Rayak aerodrome and hit six fighters, while Hurricanes probably destroyed a Morane at Estabel. Six Blenheims with fighter escort bombed aviation petrol stores at Beirut and started a large fire.

From the Military and Air Situation Reports for the week see TNA CAB 66/17/2

Tomahawk aircraft manufactured in the USA were now coming into service with the RAF in the Middle East.

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