This Day in History: 1941-06-08

No. 3 Squadron RAAF commenced air operations against the French Vichy Forces in Syria on 8 June 1941. The short but very successful campaign waged from 7 June to 11 July 1941. 3 Squadron, equipped with Curtiss Tomahawk aircraft, were integrated into a combined allied force with two RAF Blenheim Squadrons and two RAF Hurricane squadrons. 3 Squadron were employed in a wide variety of air roles including reconnaissance, close air support, counter air, and interdiction. In late June, 450 Squadron ground personnel were brought in to service an RAF Hurricane Squadron. While the campaign was noted for the role of experienced and well known 3 Squadron pilots such as Peter Jeffrey, Peter Turnbull, John Jackson, Alan Rawlinson, and South Australian Rex Wilson, it also saw the introduction of new pilots like Bobby Gibbes, who joined the Squadron on 14 May 1941 and obtained the first of his many aerial victories in the campaign. Gibbes would go on to become one of the highest top-scoring Australian pilots in the two years that he served with 3 Squadron; the Squadron he eventually commanded. Despite flying more than 3,000 sorties, the Vichy air force was defeated by a smaller but better armed combined allied force. The allies initially sought and obtained control of the air freeing up the air assets to conduct operations with the ground forces unhindered. Source: RAAF Association South Australian Division