Nearly 80 years ago - six weeks from June to July 1941 to be exact - the Allies fought a brief but vicious campaign against the Vichy French colonial territory in the Levant (now modern day Lebanon and Syria). In this short conflict the Allies prevailed but at a cost of over 1,000 lives on either side including over 400 Australians. To put it in perspective that's ten times our losses suffered in Afghanistan in over ten years but in just six weeks! Yet it is virtually unknown, coming as it did just after the disastrous campaign in Greece and the unsuccessful defense of Crete (German airborne assault Op MERCURE) and before Tobruk and El Alamein. And of course by 1942 when these troops were pulled back to defend Australia and fighting for survival on the Kokoda track. The entire episode in Syria and Lebanon was quickly forgotten which is a pity as the achievements of the Australians were as impressive and courageous as any of the better known battles in WWII. The French they were up against were a formidable foe. The French colonial Army de Orient were well-led, trained, equipped and highly motivated - which came as a great surprise to the British commanders who had expected little (if any) resistance. This episode would have likely remained in obscurity, unknown outside the official (Australian) military histories (as I did in the AWM's Vol II 'Greece, Crete and Syria' of Australia in the War of 1939-45 published by the Australian War Memorial in 1953 on my father's bookshelf!) but for a masterful retelling of the entire thing by Richard James in his 'Australia's War with France - The Campaign in Syria and Lebanon, 1941' (Big Sky Publishing 2017).
But I know you lot didn't visit Doc's blog for a history lesson so here are the figures and models I've done up to represent the Vichy French the Australians encountered. The first cab off the rank is a great little 1/72 model (Hobby Boss - a Chinese firm) of a Vichy Dewoitine D520 fighter. The French air force was well-equipped with fighters and bombers that were easily a match for the Allies, and the French pilots gave good account of themselves downing two Hurricanes and strafing Australian convoys on the coastal road near the Litani River. The Dewoitines were the best French fighters of the war. Colourful too!