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France and Syria


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Interesting article here;


The Australians and the Vichy soldiers both hated de Gaulle’s men,

and the British also distrusted the Free French. Almost the entire Vichy

force – invited to join de Gaulle’s forces to save "the honour of

France" – chose to be repatriated to their half-occupied country, many

of them in a ship displaying a large banner upon which was written “Vive


For the first time, we have this sorry tale written not just from

British but from Vichy French archives, wherein we learn that out of

37,000 men fighting for Vichy, 32,380 chose to return to Petainist

France, just 5,848 joining the Free French – but 66 per cent of them

were African troops who had no interest in the European war.

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I can strongly recommend Colin Smith's book entitled 'England's Last War Against France'.

It covers the partial sinking of the French fleet at Oran, the conflict in Madagascar and the war in Syria & Palestine. The attitude of many French servicemen at the time was driven more by loyalty to their commanders than by any affection for the German cause.

De Gaulle was generally distrusted by many French and the Allies in general. One little cameo which I remember reading about was when he was 'received' on board a British warship with its scrubbed white deck. De Gaulle, a chain-smoker, apparently stubbed out his cigarette on the deck, to the ill-concealed disgust of the British admirals present.
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Thank you too Norman - I'll get that book. I've always wanted to understand more about that period in France's history and which is largely unknown by most British.

That author who I mentioned, Colin Smith, has also written 'Singapore Burning' about the fall of Malaysia and Singapore in WWII. Particularly interesting for me, since my Dad was there at the time.

At the risk of stating the obvious, he managed (by sheer luck) to get out. Many didn't.

Both those books are good reads & highly recommended.
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Who were the "Vichy soldiers"? Do you mean an army of frenchmen in occupied France in WW2? Or were they Syrians? So what had Syria got to do with it all?

And why would the Australians hate De Gaulle?

Sounds very complicated to me

I knew about the french fleet at Oran; Wasn't there something similar at Marseille?

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Patf ..............

Yes, it was pretty complicated! After WWI, the former Ottoman Empire was divvied up by the Allies, the British taking Iraq, Transjordan and Palestine and the French taking Syria and Lebanon.

After the fall of France in WWII, the Germans were keen to use Syria as 'an airfield' in the eastern Med in order to support it's interests in that part of the world and in particular to get their hands on Iraq's oil. Syria, as a French possession, naturally had French land and air forces in situ and it was assumed by the British that those forces would roll over and sign up with the Free French. It didn't work out that way as mentioned in my earlier post.

BTW, some 80% of the French land forces were North African or Sengalese and a large proportion of the mainland French forces were Foreign Legion regulars. It was not uncommon for a number of these to be either British or German!

As for Marseille, is it possible that you were thinking of Toulon? In 1942 the French fleet, which was based there in a mothballed state, was scuttled by its commanders rather than be taken over by the Germans and handed over to the Italians (who by then had managed to lose most of their ships).

The above is a precis of what occurred, but largely correct I think.
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Thanks Gardian .

I hadn't realised that Syria was a french colony (or whatever). I knew that Lebanon was, having talked to the man who runs the Path. Lab. here, a Lebanese who wants to return to his homeland. Though he knows it's not the country he left as a child.

Seems this is part of WW2 that I know very little about. I must get some reading done.

And yes, I think it was the Toulon scuttling of the french fleet I was thinking of. I've read more about the war ar sea because my Dad served in the RNVR, in the Med. And the treatment of Jews in France.

WW2 is such a huge subject.

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If it sounds as though I know what I'm talking about, it's only because I've been mugging up on that book since this thread started.

We all know quite a lot about Dunkirk / Battle of Britain / D-Day and so on, but virtually nothing about these more obscure conflicts.

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