Second World War - Middle East
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In 1940 there were around 27,500 British troops in Palestine, and 2,500 in Aden. The Iraqi oil wells were essential to the Allied war effort, and attention was focused on preventing any Axis attempt to seize them. On 2 May 1941 there were local uprisings against the British in Iraq; by the end of the month British troops including 21 Brigade of the Indian 10th Division, reinforced by a Gurkha battalion had control of Baghdad, and the trouble had been snuffed out.

Syria posed a different problem, with 35,000 Vichy (pro-German) French troops massing there. So General Wavell ordered an invasion of Syria from Palestine and Iraq, beginning on 8 June. By 21 June Damascus had been taken and the Vichy French defeated whereupon many of them decided to fight with the Free French forces in the Allied cause.
One of hundreds of nursing sisters from India who served in the Middle East
One of hundreds of nursing sisters from India who served in the Middle East
© Imperial War Museum

The Indian 5th Brigade was forced to surrender while surrounded near Mezze; the Indian 8th and 10th Divisions took part in the rest of the campaign. The return of the 5th Brigade into Allied hands was made part of the terms of the Vichy French surrender.
 
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