Lebanon had formed part of the Ottoman Empire for hundreds of years prior to the First World War. Following the Armistice in 1918, Greater Lebanon, later the Lebanon Republic, was included as a semi-independent state in the French Mandate for Syria and Lebanon, which included modern day Lebanon, Syria and part of modern day Turkey. French influence and interference in Lebanese governance and law was strong throughout the 1920s and 1930s. When France signed an armistice with Nazi Germany in June, 1940, French colonial governments and military forces divided their allegiances between the Free French, led by Charles de Gaulle, based in England, and the Vichy French, led by Philippe Pétain as head of the state of Vichy France. By the terms of the armistice, the Vichy French were allowed to maintain military provisions for the French colonial empire overseas. This included approximately 45,000 Vichy French troops throughout the Vichy-local French Mandate for Syria and Lebanon. Within a few weeks of this armistice, the Vichy French government began collaborating with Nazi Germany. In 1941, it became evident that the Vichy government was allowing Germany and Italy to stage military forces in Syria and Lebanon. As a result, an Allied force, consisting largely of Australian, British, Free French and Free Czechoslovakian troops, invaded Syria and Lebanon in what is now known as Operation Exporter. The campaign lasted for six weeks, from 8 June to 14 July, 1941, and it saw Allied troops fighting against their former French allies. Following the Allied victory Lebanon, and later Syria, established their independence.
Visitors to Lebanon today can visit historic sites associated with the Australian role in the campaign. In particular, the 7th Division of the Second Australian Imperial Force played a key role in advancing along two main drives, one along the coast towards Sidon, and the other inland towards Jezzine. After the campaign various Australian units were based around Lebanon on garrison duties.
Image: Major General A. S. “Tubby” Allen (centre), commander of the 7th Division of the Second Australian Imperial Force, near Hammana, Lebanon, 2 September, 1941.
Creator: Frank Hurley
Source: Wikimedia Commons.