The fall of Vichy Lebanon and Syria

[Lebanon and Syria - WWII]. [Photograph album of French Lebanon and Syria at war].

Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine, 1939-1941.

Oblong 4to (280 x 190 mm). 11 ff. (followed by 13 ff. blank leaves) with 76 black and white photographs (mostly ca. 80 x 110 mm), most mounted in photo corners.


A unique photograph album from one of the least studied fronts of the Second World War, documenting the final years and fall of the Vichy government's overseas colonies in Syria and Lebanon.

The album begins shortly after the outbreak of World War II, following the steamship Alberte Le Borgne and her torpedo boat escort as she departs on 26 September for Beirut via Algeria. On the ship is the anonymous photographer, a French officer who served with a squadron of the Army of the Levant. When he set sail, France had declared war on Nazi Germany three weeks prior. By the time he returned in August of 1941, Paris had fallen, and the city of Tarbes which greeted the returning officers was under the Vichy regime. In the intervening years, the photographer sets the scene for the Syria-Lebanon Campaign of 1941, which saw the successful invasion of Vichy Syria and Lebanon by British and Free French forces.

In the photographs, the year 1939 unfolds at an almost relaxed pace, despite the looming war: troops bathe in the Mediterranean 20 km south of Beirut, and the photographer poses with his officer friends outside their lodgings in a nice hillside house in Halba, Lebanon. One of them, Lieutenant Lalarme, would be killed in June 1941 in Iskenderun.

Several photos are undated, but were certainly taken in late 1939 or the first half of 1940. Several are in Haifa in British Mandate Palestine, likely very shortly before the fall of France and hostilities between the Vichy government and Britain. One snapshot even shows the SS Patria at port in Haifa. Shortly thereafter, the British refused sanctuary to Jewish refugees and loaded many onto the Patria to be deported; in an attempt to halt the deportation, the Zionist group Haganah detonated a bomb in Patria's hull, sinking her in sixteen minutes and killing over two hundred.

As the album proceeds into 1941, the photographer now fights for the Vichy government, but much stays the same: he still photographs the beautiful view from the mess hall over Tripoli, and the balcony of a seaside officer's quarters in Tyre. By summer, however, it would be over: the next set of photographs show a military ceremony outside Mansourieh in July 1941, a few weeks after Vichy France was defeated in Syria. In August, officers return to the city of Tarbes in Vichy France, which until the Liberation would be one of the hubs of the Résistance.


Very little wear or fading, with photographs in generally excellent condition.

Art.-Nr.: BN#61414 Schlagwörter: , , , , ,