10 NOVEMBER 1990, Page 28

Lebanese incident

Sir: I was most interested in the article about Danny Chamoun (Death in the morning', 27 October) mentioning his father Camille Chamoun and his rude arrest by the French on the night of 11 November 1943. I had arrived in Beirut after having been wounded in the 8th Army as ADC to General Sir Edward Spears, the British minister to Syria and Lebanon, a short while before.

On the evening of 11 November the French delegate-general and other high officials had been entertained to dinner at the British Legation in Beirut. Later on that night their troops arrested the Lebanese president, Chamoun, the foreign minister and other Lebanese ministers. I was asked by Spears to go in an armoured car with a large Union Jack flying above it to rescue the president's wife and Cha- 'noun's wife, both of whose houses were surrounded by French troops. As I got out of the armoured car to rescue Madame Chamoun, some of the French troops (Senegalese, Vietnamese etc) pointed their rifles at me, and the stolid British trooper manning the machine gun on the armoured car was so horrified he said, 'Shall I give them a burst, sir?' and I said, 'No, wait until they fire first.' I rescued the charming and pretty young lady without harm but we had some difficulty in getting her suitcase into the turret of the armoured car.

Two further reflections. I am amazed that no one has yet written a life of Spears, who was Lloyd George's representative with the French government in the first world war and Churchill's representative in the second, who brought de Gaulle out of France and who has written marvellous books about the first war and the fall of France in the second.

And it is sad that no one in the West has protested at the recent Syrian occupation of the Christian enclave in Beirut.

John Stokes

House of Commons, London SW1