In December 1916 the French played the major role in resolving the confused Greek situation. France 'Sunk' A U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier: China Took Notice . Vichy French Fleet. His replacement, Admiral Gabriel Auphan, guessed correctly that the Germans were aiming to seize the large fleet at Toulon, and ordered them to be scuttled. The War Cabinet did not hesitate, Churchill reported later. Sovereign Media, 6731 Whittier Avenue, Suite C-100 McLean, VA 22101, From Tolkien to Hitler: Famous Soldiers of World War I, The Battle for Omaha Beach: The Men of the D-Day Invasion, Napoleon Bonaparte’s Last Campaign: The Battle of Waterloo, Operation Barbarossa: World War II’s Eastern Front, The Battle of Gettysburg: Turning Point of the American Civil War, Mers el Kebir: Why the Royal Navy Sunk the French Fleet in WWII, What Made the German Luger the Most Famous Pistol in Modern Warfare, The Essential Role of Navy PBR Boats in the Vietnam War, The Real Story of General George Patton, Jr’s Death & Final Days, Donald Malarkey: The Story of Easy Company’s Brother from Astoria, Colonel William O. Darby and the U.S. Army Rangers, Operation Sea Lion: Hitler’s Cancelled Invasion of Britain. The prime minister noted that the German government had “solemnly declared” that it had no intention of using the French vessels. Four combat groups including two armoured groups and a motorcycle battalion from 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich were entrusted with the mission. Mounting four 340 mm (13 in) guns, in 1944 this fortification duelled with numerous Allied battleships for over a week before being silenced during Operation Dragoon. Shortly after the Germans attacked France on May 10, 1940, most of the vessels in French ports sailed to other harbors. Following the Allied invasion of French North Africa, Adolf Hitler ordered Case Anton, the occupation of Vichy France and reinforced German forces in Africa. So, Force H was formed at Gibraltar on June 28, 1940. The Attack on Mers-el-Kébir (Battle of Mers-el-Kébir) on 3 July 1940, during the Second World War, was a British naval attack on French Navy ships at the naval base at Mers El Kébir, at Oran, on the coast of French Algeria. Marshal Henri Philippe Pétain’s Vichy government broke off diplomatic relations with Britain and moved closer to active collaboration with Germany, and French planes dropped a few retaliatory bombs on Gibraltar. The fate of the fleet, in particular, was seen to be doubtful. Acknowledged as a highly successful surface commander, he served until August 1944, when he was replaced by Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser. No Jacket. The French sunk 164 ships in Toulon. [citation needed]. Also, the Vichy French naval minister, Admiral Jean Darlan, though no friend of the British, instructed his captains that under no circumstances were their ships to be made available to the Germans. Meanwhile, the captain of the cruiser Marseillaise ordered his ship capsized and demolition charges set. This was true.”, Churchill noted, “The genius of France enabled her people to comprehend the whole significance of Oran, and in her agony to draw new hope and strength from this additional bitter pang.”, He was touched by a story about the aftermath of the July 3 destruction of the French squadron. Captain Holland was met at 8:10 am by Gensoul’s barge bearing his flag lieutenant, “an old friend of mine,” the British officer reported. However, there were scuffles during the transfer of the destroyer Mistral and the 3,250-ton submarine Surcouf. During the night of July 7-8, a fast launch from Hermes sneaked through the harbor booms, dropped depth charges under the stern of Richelieu, and escaped. Led by Vice Admiral Sir Neville Syfret and then Vice Admiral Algernon U. Willis after Somerville departed early in 1942, the task force took part in the dramatic pursuit and destruction of the 42,000-ton German battleship Bismarck, the invasions of Madagascar, northwest Africa, and southern Europe, and provided the main escort for vital convoys to Malta. Somerville was regarded by Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham, commander of the British Mediterranean Fleet, as “a great sailor and a great leader.”. “At this point,” recorded Holland, “it was observed that the battleships were furling awnings and raising steam.”. The Allied invasion of North Africa had provoked the Germans into invading the zone libre, neutral according to the Armistice of 1940. The odds were already heavy … The British battlewagon increased speed to 25 knots in an attempt to challenge Strasbourg, but then veered away to avoid a torpedo attack by the French destroyers. It recalled the episode of the destruction of the Danish Fleet in Copenhagen harbor by Nelson in 1801; but now the French had been only yesterday our dear allies, and our sympathy for the misery of France was sincere. The Bretagne battleship served the French Navy throughout the bulk of World War 1 and operated throughout the inter-war years and into the early part of World War 2. Around 5:15 pm, as Gensoul was deciding to reject the British ultimatum, he received a signal from Admiral Somerville stating that Force H would sink his ships unless he accepted the terms by 5:30. Vichy military authorities lived in fear of a coup de main organised by the British or by the Free French. But the Royal Navy’s actions had made clear to the world—and in particular to America, which recognized the Vichy regime—that Britain, on the apparent brink of defeat, was determined to win the battle of the Mediterranean and secure eventual victory. Commanded by Captain R.F.J. Facing both the German and Italian navies, it was stretched thinly in the North Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, the Far East, and the Mediterranean Sea. The Vichy regime lost its last token of power, as well as its credibility with the Germans, with the fleet. One of the cruisers, Jean de Vienne, was in drydock, helpless. The French destroyed 77 vessels, including 3 battleships, 7 cruisers, 15 destroyers, 13 torpedo boats, 6 sloops, 12 submarines, 9 patrol boats, 19 auxiliary ships, 1 school ship, 28 tugs, and 4 cranes. Admiral De Grasse intervention on the Chesapeake bay and Yorktown famously helped George’s Washington’s army besieging Lord Cornwallis which had to surrender, giving in effect the United States its independence. French and Germans alike fled the vessel. 810 Squadron aboard HMS Ark Royal reported from an altitude of 7,000 feet that Hood’s first salvo had exploded in a line across Commandante Teste, Bretagne, and the quarterdeck of Strasbourg. Most of the remaining French Fleet had been scuttled at Toulon on November 27, 1942, following the Allied invasion of North Africa, to prevent its seizure by Germany after the Nazi takeover of Vichy France. The German party attempting to board the cruiser Algérie heard the explosions and tried to persuade her crew that scuttling was forbidden under the armistice provisions. German forces were to enter Toulon from the east, capturing Fort Lamalgue, headquarters of Admiral Marquis and Mourillon arsenal; and from the west, capturing the main arsenal and the coastal defenses. In 1940, the French fleet was the fourth largest naval force in the world after Britain, the United States and Japan. Why the French Fleet Was Sunk in 1940 Feb. 18, 2003 1:02 am ET In regard to David J. Ritchie's Feb. 11 Letter to the Editor " France's Courage in World War I ": On the same day, Winston Churchill became Britain’s Prime Minister. Because of haze and smoke billowing from the French ships raising steam, the targets of Force H were obscured. This set the stage for the attack on Mers el Kebir, which was deemed unfortunate but necessary for British security. The action was sudden, and overwhelming force was used. The charges failed to detonate, but three hours later six Swordfish from the British flattop pounced on the battleship. When naval guns started engaging the German tanks, the Germans attempted to negotiate; a German officer demanded that Laborde surrender his ship, to which the admiral answered that the ship was already sunk. At 8:55 pm, they approached the French battleship at a height of 20 feet and loosed their torpedoes into a calm sea. The attack was part of Operation Catapult, a British plan to neutralise or destroy French ships to prevent them falling into German hands in the aftermath of the Allied defeat in the Battle of France. 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