Operation Battle of Beirut

The 'Battle of Beirut' was fought between Allied and Vichy French forces for the Lebanese port city of Beirut, and marked the end of the Allied 'Exporter' operation to take Lebanon and Syria (12 July 1941).

The campaign saw the initial Allied deployment of two brigades of Major General A. S. Allen’s Australian 7th Division, one brigade of Major General J. G. W. Clark’s British 1st Cavalry Division, Brigadier W. L. Lloyd’s Indian 5th Brigade which was deployed immediately from Eritrea after the surrender of the Duke of Aosta’s Italian forces, several armoured of Major General J. F. Evetts’s British 6th Division, a special commando force (C Battalion of the Special Service Brigade), six battalions of Général de Division Paul Legentilhomme’s 1st Free French Division, and air units.

On 8 July, even before the fall of Damour, the Vichy French commander, Général d’Armée Henri Dentz, had sought an armistice: the advance on Beirut together with the Allied capture of Damascus late in June and the rapid advance of Allied troops from Iraq into Syria early in July to capture Deir ez Zor and then push on towards Aleppo had made the Vichy French military situation untenable. At 00.01 on 12 July, a ceasefire came into effect and, for all intents and purposes, this ended the campaign and an armistice was signed on 14 July at the Sidney Smith Barracks on the outskirts of the city of Acre. The armistice placed Syria under the French Général de Brigade Charles de Gaulle, the leader of the Free French movement.

The triumphal entry of the Australian 7th Division into Beirut successfully established the Allied occupation of Lebanon. Beirut later became an important Allied base for Mediterranean naval operations.