Mexborough & Swinton Times – Saturday 21 June 1941
The Tragedy of Syria
Against brave resistance bred of loyalty to a bad cause, we are slowly occupying Syria and securing one flank in the developing battle for the Mediterranean. Dentz is under the orders of Vichy, a wretched fate for an honourable soldier, but Vichy represents for him the last vestige of Imperial French authority.
In Syria we are witnessing the most terrible of the ironies with which this weird war is so thicky studded. Frenchmen are fighting and dying that France may be permanently enslaved. Such is the instinct of discipline in the professional soldier that the French defenders in Syria are consciously resisting their countrymen and former allies in the name of an authority effete, corrupt, unreal, and sham, but the only authority their limited military minds can recognise.
It is one of the great tragedies of this war, that the lunacy of Petain is compelling Frenchmen to fight for all that France loathes against all that France longs for.
Our own situation is hardly less distressing. Our desire to deal tenderly with Syria and to avoid undue damage and suffering hampers our operations to an extent that the Nazis would consider laughable.
Take this typical Arab comment: “Every Syrian will thank the British from the bottom of his heart for sparing Sidon when they could have advanced faster by blowing it to pieces.” It is difficult to imagine the Germans accepting such a handicap for the sake of old comradeship, if faced with an attempt of the Italians to betray them to the British.