Australian Army Archives Reveal Pre-Independence Lebanon In Rare 1941 FootageBookmark this
In what may be a super rare find, this gem of a video appeared before me on YouTube.
Not only does it depict Lebanon’s Cedar ski slopes in 1941 but the low number of views makes it all the more worthwhile.
The rare footage, as shot by the Australian Imperial Forces depicts the soldiers first ski unit, which was raised and trained in the Cedars.
The footage was shot by some of Australia’s pioneering war photographers, Frank Hurley –also recognized for accompanying Ernest Shackelton on his famous ill-fated Endurance exhibition to Antarctica in 1914-1916) and Damien Parer, considered one of Australia’s best known combat cameramen. [source]
“The Cedars of Lebanon are a clump of trees 6000 feet up in the Lebanon Range. This range extends along the coast and has 2 skiing centers, Les Cedres and Beskinta...The school classes were held on the slopes opposite the hotel…” -The description within the video reads.
While it isn’t the usual sensationalized videos that we see of Lebanon in the past, with models adorned in jewelry, glamorous cocktail parties as narrated by a Voice-Of-God stylized raconteur; it does depict the ski slopes of Lebanon following the defeat of Vichy France by the allied forces, which consequently led to Lebanon’s independence from the French in 1943.
So what were the Aussie forces doing here exactly? A little history.
The Battle of Beirut on the 12th of July 1941 marked the end of hostilities in the Syria-Lebanon campaign of WWII between Vichy-France and the Free French, British and Australian alliance.
As part of the coalition, Australian troops –specifically the Australian Imperial Forces advanced from northern Palestine towards Beirut after which an armistice was signed two days later bringing into effect a cessation of hostilities.
The Aussies part in the World War II alliance is often overshadowed, but back in the land down under, it is celebrated as an integral part of the Australian yearly calendar.
Veteran soldiers who fought during WWI, also known as diggers hold special reverence in both Australia and New Zealand.
Which brings me to my point.
As an Australian born repatriated Lebanese, I have to say that ties between Canberra and Beirut pale in comparison to the past.
Given that Australia is now home to over a million Lebanese expats, the bond should have become stronger seemingly since Australia played a major role in our independence at home and growth overseas.
But how can that come to be? I’ll leave it up to the concerned parties to figure it out. And by concerned parties I’m looking at the:
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants
And of course,
Aussies in Beirut
As for the rest of you, how do you feel about developing greater ties between the Lebanese at home and those overseas?