1st Royal Fusiliers at Kuneitra,Syria 1941

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Peter H
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1st Royal Fusiliers at Kuneitra,Syria 1941

Post by Peter H » 29 Sep 2009 23:50

Part of the 5th Infantry Brigade of the 4th Indian Division this battalion was effectively destroyed by a Vichy French attack down the Damascus road on the 16th June 1941.Partly mentioned here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Kissou%C3%A9

The 600 man battalion was attacked by 1500 French troops with 40 tanks,10 armoured cars and two field guns.One company had been detached and stood back from the action.The British only had one Breda AT gun,a few AT rifles and molotov cocktails to try and stop the French armour.They were driven back in the resulting street fighting and encircled in a cluster of stone houses.

According to the Australian Official History "there were 177 survivors when the battalion commander surrendered at 7pm".470 prisoners were included in the final count according to one French estimate.

I'm also curious about how the Vichy handled their prisoners of war.For example around 29 Australians were also captured at Fort Merdjayoun soon after.Australian accounts mention that at the Armistice both sides had to return all POWs they held.It appears some Allied prisoners held by the French were returned after being held in Germany and Italy.How was it possible that the Vichy were able to transfer some prisoners out of Syria in the first place then ?

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Re: 1st Royal Fusiliers at Kuneitra,Syria 1941

Post by Andy H » 03 Oct 2009 16:10

Hi Peter

I dont have anywhere near a full answer to:-
I'm also curious about how the Vichy handled their prisoners of war
but within the agreement to cease hostilities on July 14th, the return of all Allied prisoners was complicated by the fact that some were already on there way out of the country-I presume to mainland France-though I have no details of how the were transported out-and 30 senior Vichy offciers including General Dentz were held until the British prisoners were returned.

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Andy H

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Re: 1st Royal Fusiliers at Kuneitra,Syria 1941

Post by Peter H » 04 Oct 2009 11:29

Thanks Andy.

The Australian Official History (Volume II – Greece, Crete and Syria,page 520) gives the following number of prisoners sent to France--39 officers,13 NCOs,a mix of British,Australians and Indians(the Australians numbered four only).

They returned to Syria as follows(4th-15th August)--assembled at Toulon,flown to Athens,by sea to Salonkia,and then by sea to Beirut.

Others,mainly lower ranks,remained in Vichy hands in Syria.Many of these were released immediately at the time of the Armistice and made their own way back to their units.Its related that Arthur Blackburn,commanding the 2/3rd MG Battalion,picked up two of his 'missing' privates (their POW status had not been confirmed) hitchhiking back to the Australian lines as he took a staff ride.

It also mentions another 18 held by the Italians "at Scarpanto in the Dodecanese".These took longer to get back(they did not arrive on Syrian soil until the 30th August) so it appears the Italians didn't at first like the arrangement or delayed it for some other reason.

The mentioning of the Italian Dodecanese does suggests an air link existed between Syria and Greece via this location.

Peter

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