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British Attacks on the French Fleet file photo [11890]

British Attacks on the French Fleet

3 Jul 1940 - 25 Sep 1940


ww2dbaseThe fall of France and the establishment of the Vichy government put the Allied forces in a precarious position. The Vichy French government was non-belligerent, but was also under heavy influence of Nazi Germany. The vast French colonial holdings in North Africa, along with the sizeable French fleet that protected them, became a critical issue that needed to be addressed. The Allied nations, with the Free French led by Charles de Gaulle among them, wanted to gain access to this French fleet, but with the Vichy government operating under German protection, these ships were just as easily turn their guns and fire on the Allies in the Mediterranean Sea. At Oran and Mers-el-K├ębir, French Algeria, the French had four battleships, thirteen destroyers, one seaplane carrier, and four submarines; at Dakar, French West Africa, two battleships; at Alexandria, Egypt, one battleship and four cruisers. Should the Germans acquire these ships, either by force or with French cooperation, it would result in a German Navy that could rival the British Royal Navy.

ww2dbaseFaced with the potential dangers of this substantial French fleet, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill made his decision to strike first, risking harm to British-French relations.

ww2dbasePlymouth and Portsmouth, Britain

ww2dbaseOn 3 Jul, French ships in Plymouth and Portsmouth, England, United Kingdom were boarded and captured. Among these ships was the French submarine Surcouf (the largest submarine in the world at the time), four other submarines, old battleships Paris and Courbet, destroyers Triomphant and L├ęopard, eight torpedo boats, and other smaller vessels. During the boarding some French crews cooperated while others resisted with force; two British officers and one French sailor were killed during the struggles. After the boarding, some crews joined the Free French forces; those who refused were repatriated back to France.

ww2dbaseMers-el-K├ębir, French Algeria

ww2dbaseThe largest Vichy French fleet was present at Mers-el-K├ębir on the same day, which included old battleships Provence and Bretagne, modern battleships Dunkerque and Strasbourg, seaplane tender Commandant Teste, and six destroyers, all under the command of Admiral Marcel-Bruno Gensoul. Code name Operation Catapult, Admiral James Somerville and his British Force H arrived at Mers-el-K├ębir, attempting to negotiate before firing the guns. The ultimatum was delivered by Captain Cedric Holland, a French-speaking commanding officer of carrier HMS Ark Royal.

ww2dbaseIt is impossible for us, your comrades up to now, to allow your fine ships to fall into the power of the German or Italian enemy. We are determined to fight on until the end, and if we win, as we think we shall, we shall never forget that France was our Ally, that our interests are the same as hers, and that our common enemy is Germany. Should we conquer we solemnly declare that we shall restore the greatness and territory of France. For this purpose we must make sure that the best ships of the French Navy are not used against us by the common foe. In these circumstances, His Majesty's Government have instructed me to demand that the French Fleet now at Mers-el-K├ębir and Oran shall act in accordance with one of the following alternatives;

ww2dbase(a) sail with us and continue the fight until victory against the Germans and Italians.

ww2dbase(b) Sail with reduced crews under our control to a British port. The reduced crews would be repatriated at the earliest moment.

ww2dbaseIf either of these courses is adopted by you we will restore your ships to France at the conclusion of the war or pay full compensation if they are damaged meanwhile.

ww2dbase(c) Alternatively if you feel bound to stipulate that your ships should not be used against the Germans or Italians unless these break the Armistice, then sail them with us with reduced crews to some French port in the West Indies - Martinique for instance - where they can be demilitarised to our satisfaction, or perhaps be entrusted to the United States and remain safe until the end of the war, the crews being repatriated.

ww2dbaseIf you refuse these fair offers, I must with profound regret, require you to sink your ships within 6 hours.

ww2dbaseFinally, failing the above, I have the orders from His Majesty's Government to use whatever force may be necessary to prevent your ships from falling into German or Italian hands.

ww2dbaseWhile Gensoul was unlikely to have conceded in any case, dispatching Captain Holland to deliver the message caused Gensoul to also dispatch an officer of equal rank, Bernard Dufay, to receive it, thus causing delay and further confusion. It was also worth noting that Gensoul never sent a copy of this text to French Navy Minister Admiral Darlan.

ww2dbaseBefore the negotiations were formally ended, the British already took action. Swordfish and Skua aircraft flew into the harbor to drop magnetic mines, and French H-75 fighters rose to meet them. One Skua aircraft was shot down during the action, killing the crew.

ww2dbaseAt 1754 hours, the warships of the British Force H opened fire, which was consisted of battlecruiser HMS Hood, battleships HMS Valiant and HMS Resolution, escorted by carrier HMS Ark Royal and a number of cruisers and destroyers. Positioned inside the narrow harbor, the French ships were at a disadvantage, unable to train all of their guns at the British. Bretagne was the first French ship to be hit, during the British third salvo, igniting an ammunition magazine which killed 977 by 1809 hours. After about 30 salvos, all French ships were disabled, but coastal guns continued to fire. Seriously damaged, the crews of Provence, Dunkerque, and destroyer Mogador ran the ships aground to prevent sinking. Seaplane carrier Commandante Teste was damaged as well.

ww2dbaseFive ships were able to escape the battle, Strasbourg and four destroyers. HMS Ark Royal launched Swordfish torpedo bombers to pursue them, which was unsuccessful with two aircraft shot down; the downed crews were rescued by destroyer HMS Wrestler. At 1843 hours, British warships began to move away from Mers-el-K├ębir to pursue the fleeing French ships, but this would also prove to be fruitless, and was called off by Somerville at 2020 hours. At 2055 hours, another round of torpedo aircraft attack came upon the French ships, and again it resulted in no damage. These five French ships would reach Toulon, France on 4 Jul.

ww2dbaseAt dawn on 6 Jul, HMS Ark Royal launched another strike at Mers-el-Kebir, with Dunkerque and Provence as the main targets; this action was code name Operation Lever. Dunkerque was struck by at least one torpedo, killing 154 and injuring 8. Patrol boat Terre-Neuve, moored alongside Dunkerque, was also hit, killing 8; depth charges stored aboard the patrol boat was ignited, and the explosion caused further damage to Dunkerque.

ww2dbaseThe actions of 3 Jul and 6 Jul at Mers-el-K├ębir took the lives of 1,297 French sailors. A further 350 were injured. The British only suffered 2 deaths, which was the crew of the shot-down aircraft.

ww2dbaseAlexandria, Egypt

ww2dbaseThe French ships in Alexandria consisted of old battleship Lorraine and four cruisers, under the overall command of Admiral Ren├ę-├ëmile Godfroy. They were offered the same terms on 3 Jul by Admiral Andrew Cunningham as those given to Gensoul at Mers-el-K├ębir. Godfroy accepted the terms on 7 Jul, opting to keep his ships in place. This fleet would remain in Alexandria until 1943, moving out only after they agreed to join the Free French Navy.

ww2dbaseOran, French Algeria

ww2dbaseAt 1530 hours on 4 Jul, British submarine HMS Pandora sank French gunboat Rigault de Genouilly which had sailed from Oran. It was the only action that took place at this French naval port.

ww2dbaseDakar, French West Africa

ww2dbaseDakar was not only a major naval port in the region, but it also held the gold reserves of the Banque de France and the exiled Polish government. On 8 Jul 1940, five days after the actions at Mers-el-K├ębir, British carrier HMS Hermes launched Swordfish torpedo bombers at Dakar, targeting specifically the battleship Richelieu. One torpedo hit Richelieu below the armored deck, disabling the starboard propulsion shaft. Flooding caused her stern to touch bottom. Richelieu was re-floated a few days later. She was made sea-worthy for emergencies, though she remained in Dakar as a gun platform.

ww2dbaseIn the morning of 23 Sep 1940, a combined fleet of British and Free French ships reached Dakar to conduct negotiations en force. The fleet consisted of aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, battleships HMS Resolutions and HMS Barham, four cruisers, ten destroyers, and several transports with 8,000 troops aboard; the operation was code named Operation Menace. Opposite them, the Vichy French operated the battleship/gun platform Richelieu, three submarines, two cruisers, three destroyers, and several smaller vessels. As Free French personnel arrived by air, other Allied aircraft dropped propaganda leaflets on the city to sway public opinion. Meanwhile, General Charles de Gaulle sent negotiators by ship. The Vichy French reacted with hostility; the messengers that landed at the airport were detained, and the ship carrying de Gaulle's staff was fired upon. At 1000 hours, Australian cruiser HMAS Australia fired warning shots on Vichy French ships that attempted to leave the port, and received return fire from Vichy French coastal guns. The Allied fleet returned fire, setting Vichy French destroyer L'Audacieux on fire and forcing it to be beached. That afternoon, Free French troops landed at Rufisque, northeast of Dakar; facing heavy defensive fire, de Gaulle called off the landing to avoid "shed[ding] the blood of Frenchmen for Frenchmen".

ww2dbaseOn 24 and 25 Sep, Allied fleet bombarded the coastal fortifications from the sea. Two Vichy French submarines, Pers├ęe and Ajax, left port on attack, but were sunk during the process; submarine B├ęv├ęziers, however, was able to penetrate the Allied screen and fire her torpedoes at British battleship HMS Resolution. Meanwhile, battleships Richelieu and HMS Barham exchanged fire. Richelieu hit Barham with two secondary gun shells, while Barham hit Richelieu twice with her 15-inch primary guns. Even though a blowback accident disabled Richelieu's number two turret, significantly reducing Vichy-French firepower, the Allies decided to depart to avoid further damage to their fleet.

ww2dbaseThis Vichy French victory was of little consequence militarily, but on the political scene it was significant. De Gaulle, who was one of the main proponents for this operation, lost much standing among his British peers for not being able to deliver Dakar to the Allies, which was described as an easy goal by de Gaulle.


ww2dbaseIn retaliation of the seizures and attacks on French ships, French bombers attacked the British fleet at Gibraltar several times in Jul and twice in Sep.


ww2dbaseAs expected, relationship between Vichy France and the United Kingdom was severely strained after the attacks; in fact, the Vichy French government immediately broke off all relations with the United Kingdom. Although de Gaulle was also willing to take military action against the Vichy fleet, he criticized the use of significant force that resulted in so many French deaths. Somerville later commented against the attacks, noting they were "the biggest political blunder of modern times and will rouse the whole world against us... we all feel thoroughly ashamed".

ww2dbaseFrench ships Dunkerque, Provence, and Mogador would soon be temporarily repaired and sailed to Toulon in southern France.

ww2dbaseSource: Wikipedia

Last Major Update: Feb 2011

British Attacks on the French Fleet Interactive Map


French battleship Bretagne under attack during the Battle of Mers-el-K├ębir, French Algeria, 3 Jul 1940French battleship Strasbourg under attack at Mers-el-K├ębir, French Algeria, 3 Jul 1940
See all 6 photographs of British Attacks on the French Fleet

British Attacks on the French Fleet Timeline

27 Jun 1940 Despite Admiral Darlan's previous assurances that French ships would not fall into German hands, the British War Cabinet ordered the Royal Navy to seize or destroy all French warships in British and North African ports. In turn, Vice Admiral Sir James Somerville was ordered to take the newly-formed Force H to Algeria.
29 Jun 1940 Operation Catapult: The British Admiralty gave Vice Admiral Somerville explicit instructions to secure the transfer, surrender, or destruction of the French warships at Mers-el-K├ębir, Algeria. Force H under his command consisted of battleships HMS Valiant and HMS Resolution, battlecruiser HMS Hood, aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, cruisers HMS Arethusa and HMS Enterprise, and 11 destroyers.
1 Jul 1940 US Ambassador to France William C. Bullitt met with French Marshal Philippe P├ętain, who ensured that orders had been given "to every captain of the French Fleet to sink his ship rather than permit [it] to fall into German hands". Later on the same day, Bullitt visited French Admiral Fran├žois Darlan, who noted that French ships had been ordered to sail for Martinique and Guantanamo should there be a risk that the Germans would gain the French fleet, and if sailing not possible, the ships would be scuttled.
3 Jul 1940 Battle of Mers-el-K├ębir: At 0545 hours, Vice Admiral James Somerville and his British Royal Navy Force H arrived off of Mers-el-K├ębir, Algeria where a power fleet under French Admiral Marcel Gensoul resided. At 1756 hours, after Gensoul refused to surrender, the British fleet opened fire for 10 minutes. The magazine of French battleship Bretagne was hit, sinking her, taking down 977 French sailors. Battleship Provence, battleship Dunkerque, and destroyer Mogador were damaged. In total, 1,297 French sailors were killed and 350 were wounded. After the battle, French battleship Strasbourg, carrier Commandant Teste, and four destroyers were able to escape from Mers-el-K├ębir.
3 Jul 1940 British Navy Vice Admiral Sir Andrew Cunnigham demanded the French warships under French Admiral Ren├ę-├ëmile Godfroy, docked at Alexandria in Egypt, to surrender. Negotiations would continue until 7 Jul 1940.
4 Jul 1940 British submarine HMS Pandora sank French gunboat Rigault de Genouilly off Oran, Algeria at 1530 hours.
4 Jul 1940 French bombers attacked the British fleet at Gibraltar, causing no damage.
4 Jul 1940 The French Navy ordered submarines, armed merchant cruisers, and destroyers based in Dakar to sortie to attack British shipping.
6 Jul 1940 Operation Lever: British Royal Navy Force H under Vice Admiral James Somerville returned to Mers-el-K├ębir, Algeria. At dawn, Swordfish aircraft from carrier HMS Ark Royal scored several torpedo hits on French battleship Dunkerque, killing 154 and wounding 8. One torpedo hit patrol boat Terre Neuve, detonating depth charges, killing 8; shock waves from the explosion further damaged Dunkerque.
7 Jul 1940 After dark, a boat from HMS Hermes attempted to drop depth charges underneath French battleship Richelieu in Dakar, French West Africa; the attack was not successful.
7 Jul 1940 Operation Catapult: British Swordfish torpedo bombers from carrier HMS Hermes attacked the French battleship Richelieu in dock at Dakar, French West Africa. A torpedo hit caused a 40-foot hole, bringing her to the bottom of the harbor (the harbor was shallow enough for her to be refloated shortly after).
8 Jul 1940 British Swordfish torpedo bombers from carrier HMS Hermes hit French battleship Richelieu at Dakar, French West Africa for the second consecutive day, despite that Richelieu had already touched bottom from the attacks on the previous day.
8 Jul 1940 At Casablanca, French Morocco, British motor torpedo boats attacked French battleship Jean Bart, causing damage.
8 Jul 1940 In England, United Kingdom, General Charles de Gaulle denounced the ongoing British attacks on Vichy French forces.
14 Jul 1940 Vichy French bombers attacked Gibraltar, causing no damage.
31 Aug 1940 8,000 British and French troops departed from Britain for Freetown, Sierra Leone, escorted by British cruisers HMS Devonshire and HMS Fiji and five destroyers. Their destination would ultimately be Dakar in French West Africa, which was still under Vichy control.
6 Sep 1940 British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, battleship HMS Barham, battleship HMS Resolution, and 10 destroyers departed Gibraltar for Dakar.
9 Sep 1940 French intelligence reported a possible invasion of Dakar in West Africa by General de Gaulle's forces, supported by the British. In response, French cruisers Georges Leygues, Montcalm, and Gloire, plus three destroyers, were ordered to sail from Toulon, France to reinforce Dakar.
10 Sep 1940 The French Navy informed the British Naval Attach├ę in Madrid, Spain at 1800 hours that three cruisers and three destroyers were sailing through the Strait of Gibraltar. Unaware that these ships were en route to Dakar in West Africa, a British-Free French joint target, the British Royal Navy allowed the French warships to pass.
11 Sep 1940 At 0835 hours, six French warships passed through the Strait of Gibraltar at the speed of 25 knots. Realizing they were heading for Dakar in French West Africa, HMS Renown and three destroyers departed at 1600 hours in an attempt to intercept. Overnight, the French fleet stopped at Casablanca to refuel.
12 Sep 1940 After refueling at Casablanca overnight, three of the six French warships (the three cruisers) departed at 0400 hours, sailing full speed for Dakar in French West Africa. Behind them, HMS Renown's group, now with six destroyers in escort, chased in an attempt to intercept.
14 Sep 1940 British battleships HMS Barham and HMS Resolution, several British destroyers, and French sloops Commandant Domine and Commandant Duboc arrived at the Crown Colony of Freetown in West Africa to refuel. These warships were en route to French-controlled port of Dakar.
21 Sep 1940 British carrier HMS Ark Royal, battleship HMS Barham, battleship HMS Resolution, cruiser HMS Devonshire, French sloop Commandant Domine, French sloop Commandant Duboc, and French sloop Savorgnan De Brazza, and several destroyers and troop transports departed Freetown, West Africa for Dakar.
23 Sep 1940 Operation Menace: General Charles de Gaulle arrived with 3,600 Free French troops at Dakar, French West Africa held by Vichy France; his forces were supported by 4,300 British troops and a powerful fleet. The Vichy French forces imprisoned the crew of two Free French aircraft that had landed at Dakar, and then fired upon a boat containing Free French personnel approaching to negotiate (wounding 2). At 1000 hours, British warships approached the harbor, and were also fired upon (killing 5). At 1130 hours, British ships fell back out of the range of shore batteries; at about the same time, Vichy French submarine Persee was sunk while attempting to torpedo the cruiser Dragon. In the afternoon, cruiser HMAS Australia attacked Vichy French destroyer L'Audacieux, forcing her to beach after 81 were killed. De Gualle's first attempt at a landing, at Rufisque Bay, was repulsed, and he began to show reluctance of killing fellow countrymen. Having heard of this sentiment, Winston Churchill urged de Gaulle to "[s]top at nothing".
24 Sep 1940 Operation Menace: Overnight, Governor of French West Africa, Pierre Boisson, rejected Free French demand for the surrender of Dakar. At 0700 hours, British destroyer HMS Fortune detected Vichy French submarine Ajax, which was forced to surface by depth charges and then sunk with gunfire after the crew of 61 was captured. British battleship HMS Barham shelled French battleship Richelieu in Dakar harbor; Richelieu was damaged with two shells and a misfire of her own. French coastal batteries was able to force back the British fleet at 1000 hours. In the afternoon, the British fleet returned. French coastal artillery opened fire again, hitting Barham with four shells, and forced back the British fleet once again. Far to the north, 64 Vichy French bombers from Algeria and Morocco bombed Gibraltar in retaliation, damaging one ship.
25 Sep 1940 Operation Menace: The British fleet bombarded Dakar in French West Africa in the morning. At 0900 hours, French submarine Beveziers attacked British battleship HMS Resolution, damaging her; she had to be towed back by battleship HMS Barham while the rest of the British warships fell back. The British War Cabinet decided to cancel the operation after all attempts to enter Dakar failed. Meanwhile, Vichy French bombers from Algeria and Morocco again bombed Gibraltar in retaliation to the British and Free French attacks on Dakar, lighting damaging port facilities and sinking British anti-submarine trawler Stella Sirius.

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. rockytony says:
15 Mar 2011 06:59:44 AM

Excellent piece. Keep in mind that after France tossed in the towel there was no country left to fight the Germans except England. The US was still listening to the America Firsters so the Brits had to go it alone. Faced with the imminent and expected land invasion of the UK by Germany (Sea Lion) and after Dunkirk, the Brits had little with which to fight the Germans with except a superb Navy. If the French Navy, quite formidable and respected even for the Frence, joined the Italian Navy a superb force before Taranto, then this balance of sea power would have been thrown on the side of the Axis. Starting with Churchill, the Brits had nothing but the flimsy promise from the Vichy-led government and Adm. Darlan, not to turn this Navy over to Germany, the Brits had little choice but to take that Navy out.
2. Ian says:
10 Apr 2012 02:31:01 PM

Why did the French Navy not join up with the Royal Navy ..what a dumb trecherous move the F N undertook.. It appears the Germans could not trust the Italians and the British could not trust the French.
3. Nicolas says:
4 Dec 2013 07:59:15 AM

Ian, don't rude things like that.
It's not that the British couldn't trust the French, it's the result of the British who didn't trust the French, when they said their fleet will never join the Axis.
When Germany seized the southern part of France, after the Allies landed in north Africa, all the french fleet in Toulon (except a few outdated submarines) was scuttled to prevent any use by the Germans.
It would have been a better thing if they joined the Allied fleet, but Mers-el-Kebir let heavy wounds between France and UK and probably helped those who wanted to collaborate with the Germans.
It was a choice Churchill regretted after it occured, but as Rockytony said, England was all alone at that time.
French fleet was the third or fourth fleet in the world, dangerous and modern enough to cause a threat if it joined the Axis.

Gensoul bore an heavy responsability in the disaster...
4. Michel Merlin says:
19 Jun 2014 08:10:00 AM

Decision easy in 2014, harder in 1940
~--~--~--~--~--~--~- ~--~--~--~--~--~
My father joined Dakar (from St-Louis) in Jun-Jul 1940 (my mother sailing to France on an old little cargo, gave birth to me in Marseille on 30 Jun; then, since war had gone over for us French meanwhile, went back Senegal by sail, camel, bus). My uncles were pilots in RAF (Groupe Lorraine) from 17 Jun 40 to 1946 (then came back as Compagnons de la Lib├ęration, DFC, Gd Off L├ęgion d'Honneur, etc). Their father, who had been wounded in trenches in 1914-18, was for P├ętain, but all (as in REAL French people) were well loving and well understanding each others, all highly respecting both P├ętain and de Gaulle. ~--~--~--~--~--

Choices were hard at that time: in place of P├ętain, what would you do on 17 Jun 1940? capitulate? or continue fighting with thousands killed every day? Only a very few were ACTUALLY able to quit France and join the Britich; Armistice was perceived by most French, as by P├ętain, as a "moindre mal" (lesser evil), retaining some of our powers facing Germans. Same way, many French had NOT yet understood that the Germans, military and political, were (willingly or not) following the Nazis, and that those Nazis were hooligans and gangsters; so they were still thinking this Armistice was an agreement between respectable fighters, that each party would fulfill. Whence the dilemma for the French Navy: joining our British friends (thus violating our promise in the Armistice agreement)? or applying the Armistice (thus betraying our friends)? Now in 2014 it is easy to decide: what was right was to join de Gaulle and the British; but what would each of us have done *in Jun-Jul 1940*? ~--~--~--~--~--

Versailles, Thu 19 Jun 2014 17:10:00 +0200
5. Michel Merlin says:
19 Jun 2014 08:33:00 AM

Warm thanks to C. Peter Chen and the Brits
~--~--~--~--~--~--~- ~--~--~--~--~--~--~--
I forgot my initial purpose: to warmly thank C. Peter Chen for this great information, and the previous readers for their sensible comments. I am impressed by the very sensible words from Admiral Somerville (delivered in French by Captain Cedric Holland); too bad this historical letter is not known enough in France. I personally don't understand why Admiral Gensoul did not choose "a" (sail with the Brits and continue the fight until victory). However, again, it's easy to decide after the battle, and I won't throw any stone at those in charge in such difficult times. Of course we all have to be proud of the French sailors who died; but I think that the British too should be proud of what they did, and should not, absolutely not, feel guilty in any way; they acted with at the same time courage and tact, strength and consideration. If avoiding the 1300 French casualties that day, how many would have died elsewhere? would the Allies have won the war? And again, what would each of us have done *in place of Somerville, that very day*?

Versailles, Thu 19 Jun 2014 17:33:00 +0200
6. Kantboy says:
24 Jun 2014 02:54:36 PM


Thanks for the fantastic information. I've read a lot about Mers-el-Kebir from both perspectives, but it's great to put it all in context and with a very useful timeline.

My grandfather was in the French Navy, serving on L'Incomprise (T112) which was seized by the British whilst docked at Portsmouth during Catapult.

L'incomprise was recrewed with sailors from the Royal Navy, apart from two French that stayed with the ship - one of which I believe is my grandfather. Both Frenchmen changed their surnames to English surnames (which I still have today) apparently to protect their families in France. Some of this is documented in a book called Stoker Greenwoods Navy, the story of a British stoker who was assigned to l'incomprise after it was seized.

The ship, a melpomene-class torpedo ship, was considered unseaworthy (after the loss of it's sister ship le Branlebas due to structural problems - apparently they were designed for the Med and didn't operate well in the North Sea/English Channel) and so was laid up for most of it's service from that point, other than some escort missions around the coast.

The ship had been involved in the evacuation of Dunkirk (Operation Dynamo) and the Battle for Zeeland in May 1940, but some websites also claim that it was involved in the scuttling of the French fleet at Toulon in 1942... here:


And here:


Although I'm not sure how this could be the case when it was under Allied command.

I've also never been clear on whether my grandfather was then with the FNFL, the Royal Navy or the Merchant Navy... We have always been told he served in the Royal Navy from that point on, and on a recent trip to France my father and I discovered that my grandfather had a brother still alive in France. This brother never knew about my father either, but when they met he gave my father my grandfathers British service medals.

I would like to know much more about my grandfather, the seizing of French ships at Portsmouth during catapult, and about French sailors that joined and served with the British Royal Navy until the end of the war.

If anyone can offer any help or suggestions as to how I can find out more please get in touch... my email is kantboy[at]hotmail.co.uk
7. James says:
1 Jul 2014 08:08:45 AM

Brilliant article, very interesting, pity it was spoiled by some inaccurate comments. More than once you would think that only the English fought to defend the UK. In this present climate, with the Scottish independence debate going on, what an unfortunate error.
8. Filip says:
24 Dec 2014 04:14:59 PM

I just watched a documentary surrounding very early ww2 and this came up, I figured I wanted to read more about it since it seemed so bizzare. They claimed the Brittish Empire gave them a choice, go to a neutral port or join the Royal Navy, they refused and was gunned down apparently?
9. Anonymous says:
29 Dec 2014 06:49:17 PM

I have a collection of photographs from Dakar in this time period - including men assembled on the deck of an aircraft carrier,several of different sailors and pilots and another photo from the Med. showing Ark Royal being torpedoed. I don't know the name of the carrier in Dakar, but I assume it was not the Ark Royal. My father (RAF) served in Dakar, and took most of the photos, which are generally not labelled. There is a photo of the SS Santa Cruz (Portuguese?) in the Dakar harbour if that helps to date the photos. Are there military archives where I can send the photos?
10. Anonymous says:
17 May 2016 07:47:50 AM

The British attacked because they did not believe the good will of French - but only because of this good will they was able to attack, and only thanks to her their attack did not end in disaster. If not for the goodwill of the French, Axis would receive at least a new battleship and many cruisers and destroyers immediately after attack.
11. Anonymous says:
24 May 2016 08:29:00 AM

Excellent article by Mr.Chen.It is difficult to find good material such as this,as well as intelligent comments.After I retired several years ago,I have more time to read about WW2 but the most available books cover the Pacific campaign,Barbarossa,Normandy,etc.Can someone recommend books regarding Vichy France.Thank you.
12. Nick says:
21 Dec 2016 09:17:54 AM

Hi, I'm researching L/C M Johnstone on behalf of his widow . He served with 810 Squardon FAA on Ark Royal when the British attacked Dakar. If possible could you supply a copy of the photograph of the sailors and airmen on the carrier. One just might include him. Kind regards Nick

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More on British Attacks on the French Fleet
» Cunningham, John
» de Gaulle, Charles
» Gensoul, Marcel-Bruno
» Godfroy, Ren├ę-├ëmile
» Somerville, James

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» Bretagne
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» Devonshire
» Dragon
» Dunkerque
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» Georges Leygues
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» Jean Bart
» Montcalm
» Provence
» Richelieu
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British Attacks on the French Fleet Photo Gallery
French battleship Bretagne under attack during the Battle of Mers-el-K├ębir, French Algeria, 3 Jul 1940French battleship Strasbourg under attack at Mers-el-K├ębir, French Algeria, 3 Jul 1940
See all 6 photographs of British Attacks on the French Fleet

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