In May 1545, the French assembled a large fleet in the estuary of the River Seine and on 16th July the huge French force under the command of Admiral Claude d’Annebault set sail for England. She was subsequently attacked and sunk by the British Royal Navy in Algeria who feared her - and the French Fleet - falling into German hands. 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. Churchill reminded the French of their treaty – that neither could surrender without the other’s agreement. French losses totaled a light cruiser, four destroyers, and five submarines. Somerville, who had decided against a night action, reported later that his Operation Catapult instructions “did not make sufficient provision for dealing with any French ships that might attempt to leave harbor.”. Holland told Admiral Somerville that his knowledge of the French character suggested “an initial refusal will often come around to an acquiescence.” Holland said he “felt most strongly that the use of force, even as a last resource, was fatal to our object.” So, he used “every endeavor to bring about a peaceful solution.”, At last, around 3 pm, Admiral Gensoul agreed to meet Holland on board Dunkerque, and this encouraged Somerville to again postpone action. Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his government dreaded the prospect of the French Fleet falling into enemy hands while Britain stood alone against the Axis powers. Commanded by Captain R.F.J. In the nearby port of Oran were seven destroyers and four submarines. Even the light destroyer Le Hardi (renamed FR37) and another four of the same class as Le Hardi were salvaged: FR32 (ex-Corsaire), FR33 (ex-Epée), FR34 (ex-Lansquenet), FR35 (ex-Fleuret). Topics Tacoma Narrows Bridge, Galloping Gertie, Operation Catapult, Newsreel, suspension bridge, French Fleet, Oran, Royal Navy, Battleship Richelieu, Vichy, WWII, World War II, Tacoma, Washington. The armistice stipulated that the French fleet would be largely disarmed and confined to its harbours, under French control. The ships formed the main French naval squadron in the Mediterranean. “This was a hateful decision, the most unnatural and painful in which I have ever been concerned. Operation Catapult was launched on July 3, 1940. At Alexandria, meanwhile, Admiral Cunningham was able to persuade the French squadron there to disarm, avoiding more bloodshed. “There was in fact no security for us at all,” he said. Despite the morning haze, “the upper works of the French heavy ships were clearly visible over the breakwater,” reported Somerville, “although only the actual tops and masts could be seen from a position northwest of the fort (guarding the entrance to the base).” His French-speaking emissary, Captain C.S. German troops forcibly boarded the cruiser Dupleix, put her crew out of the way, and closed her open sea valves. 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 terms of the infamous armistice at Compiegne stipulated that the French Fleet would not be used by Germany or Italy, but would be immobilized under their control. Churchill reminded the French of their treaty – that neither could surrender without the other’s agreement. In another drydock, the captain of the damaged Dunkerque, which had been heavily damaged by the British in the attack on Mers-el-Kébir, at first refused orders to scuttle, but was persuaded by his colleague in the nearby cruiser La Galissonnière to follow suit. On 11 November, as German and Italian troops encircled Toulon, the Vichy Secretary of the Navy, Admiral Gabriel Auphan, ordered Admirals Jean de Laborde and André Marquis to: Initial orders were to scuttle the ships by capsizing them but engineers, thinking of recovering the ships after the war, managed to have the orders changed to sinking on an even keel. The odds were already heavy against the island nation’s main line of defense, the Royal Navy. This set the stage for the attack on Mers el Kebir, which was deemed unfortunate but necessary for British security. After the fateful actions at Oran, Mers el Kebir, and Dakar, Force H was active in both the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. Action stations was sounded, but there was little bustle among the crews, Holland noted. La Marine Française (French Navy) is still called “La Royale” to this day (“Royal” (navy)) according to its pre-revolutionary traditions. One auxiliary surface ship, Leonor Fresnel, managed to escape and reach Algiers. 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. Casabianca left her moorings, snuck out of the harbour and dove at 5:40 a.m., escaping to Algiers. By a fateful, tragic irony, Force H was attacking the Royal Navy’s 18th- and 19th-century foe and 20th-century ally. Britain’s fleet was scattered throughout the world, and its supply ships were being sunk by German U-boats. An eventual total of 270,000 men were evacuated by mainly French forces without loss. Times when the very landscape appears to shift. The French fleet was in danger o falling to the Germans. The tension mounted as the situation came to a head. Scuttle! A sad end for HMS Active, which survived Falklands War battles, only to be used as target practice and sunk in Pakistan navy drill HMS Active is a Type … The first commander was trim, square-jawed, 57-year-old Vice Admiral Sir James F. Somerville, a descendant of the famous Hood naval family. 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 ": Operation Lila was a failure. Now, as the day grew hotter, Admiral Somerville could only steam back and forth outside Mers el Kebir and Oran, waiting anxiously for Captain Holland to signal back reports on the progress of his negotiations with the French. At 6:04 pm, Admiral Somerville ordered a cease-fire in to give the French sailors an opportunity to leave their ships in the smoking harbor. So, Force H was formed at Gibraltar on June 28, 1940. One of the cruisers, Jean de Vienne, was in drydock, helpless. The settlement was that Toulon should remain a "stronghold" under Vichy control and defended against the Allies and "French enemies of the government of the Marechal". There have been countless thousands of published works devoted to all or of it. While the German Naval War Staff were disappointed, Adolf Hitler considered that the elimination of the French fleet sealed the success of Case Anton.[2]. The crews of Strasbourg, Colbert, Foch and Kersaint, notably, started chanting "Long live De Gaulle! The Admiralty had drafted four options for the French admiral: (1) to put to sea and join forces with the Royal Navy; (2) to sail with reduced crews to British ports, where the vessels would be impounded and their complements repatriated; (3) to sail with reduced crews to the base at Dakar, where the ships would be immobilized; or (4) to scuttle his ships within six hours. The navy had not let the ships fall into enemy hands." [citation needed]. France 'Sunk' A U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier: China Took Notice . A senior German officer declared at the time that this act had wiped away the "stain of surrender" from the German fleet. The Operation was initiated by the Germans on 19 November 1942, to be completed by 27 November. Following Italy's entry into the Second World War on 10 June 1940, and France's surrender on 22 June, British Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham's Mediterranean Fleet at Alexandria in Egypt was outnumbered and surrounded by a largely hostile shore. When the armistice between France and Germany was put into force on June 25, 1940, the fate of the powerful French Navy—the fourth largest in the world—was of critical importance to the British. The crew opened the holes caused by British torpedo attacks to sink the ship, and demolition charges destroyed her vital machinery. Explosions from the ship's torpedo stores destroyed the vessel, which burned for ten days. Force H was then the main Allied task force in the Atlantic and western Mediterranean. The new, uncompleted, 38,000-ton battleships Jean Bart and Richelieu were tied up respectively at Casablanca in French Morocco and Dakar in French West Africa, while the aging 22,189-ton battleship Lorraine and four cruisers lay under the guns of the British Mediterranean Fleet in Alexandria harbor. Witness the evolving disaster that is Australia’s SEA 1000 Future Submarine program, won by France’s DCNS, now Naval Group, in 2016. Gensoul would refuse initially to meet with Somerville’s emissary, and the negotiations were conducted in writing. .. by radio, visual signals and dispatch boat. After the Fall of France and the Armistice of 22 June 1940, France was divided in two zones, one occupied by the Germans, and the Zone libre (Free Zone). French and Germans alike fled the vessel. Between the 11th and the 26th, numerous arrests and expulsions took place. There, Admiral Somerville was to open negotiations with Admiral Marcel Gensoul, commander of the French squadron. When the smoke cleared, Bretagne was no longer visible to the Swordfish crew, but they observed a fire aft on the seaplane carrier. There are moments in military history that forever alter the flow of human events. Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his government dreaded the prospect of the French Fleet falling into enemy hands while Britain stood alone against the Axis powers. French crews evacuated, and scuttling parties started preparing demolition charges and opening sea valves on the ships. The ship's captain, Moreau, ordered the scuttling charges in the main turrets to be lit with shortened fuses and when they exploded and fires took hold, Moreau ordered the final evacuation. The Admiralty had instructed Somerville that should Gensoul refuse all of the offers, the French ships were to be put out of action in their present berths, using “all means at your disposal.”, Early on the morning of July 3, 1940, with the sea calm and a warm haze in the air, Force H steamed toward the Algerian coast. He blanched at the prospect of killing French sailors, who were comrades in arms of the Royal Navy. From the start, this seemed an audaciously peculiar choice. So the three British capital ships had to use the nearby Mers el Kebir lighthouse as an aiming mark and make “a general shoot into the area of the anchorage.” It was difficult for the British crews to observe the results of their volleys, but a Fairey Swordfish torpedo bomber from No. From here the French Navy evacuated the Serbs first to Corfu, then to Bizerta in northern Tunisia, and once reformed to Salonika in north east Greece. Here was this Britain which so many had counted down and out, which strangers had supposed to be quivering on the brink of surrender to the mighty power arrayed against her, striking ruthlessly at her dearest friends of yesterday and securing for a while to herself the undisputed command of the sea. "[This quote needs a citation] In the afternoon of 12 November, Admiral Darlan further escalated the tension by calling for the fleet to defect and join the Allies. The charges failed to detonate, but three hours later six Swordfish from the British flattop pounced on the battleship. Her eight 15-inch guns thundered at a range of 17,500 yards, closely followed by those of Resolution and Valiant. The 15-inch guns of Hood, Resolution, and Valiant were trained fore and aft, and Admiral Somerville hoped that they would not have to be fired that day in the fulfillment of his task. Meanwhile, a direct hit blew off the stern of the large destroyer Mogador, killing 42 men. The ships included the battleships Courbet and Paris, the supply ship Pollux, destroyers, minelayers, minesweepers, submarines, submarine chasers, motor torpedo boats, tugs, trawlers, sloops, and harbor craft. The squadron comprised the 22,000-ton carrier HMS Ark Royal; the 42,100-ton battlecruiser Hood; two battleships, 29,150-ton Resolution and 30,600-ton Valiant; the cruisers, 5,220-ton Arethusa and 7,550-ton Enterprise; and the screening destroyers Faulknor, Foxhound, Fearless, Forester, Foresight, Escort, Keppel, Active, Wrestler, Vidette, and Vortigern. On the evening of July 2, Somerville had received a message from Prime Minister Churchill, relayed by the Admiralty, telling him, “You are charged with one of the most disagreeable and difficult tasks that a British admiral has ever been faced with, but we have complete confidence in you and rely on you to carry it out relentlessly.”. Though sunk, It was a tense, impotent time, particularly for the Force H commander. By this time, more than 1,250 seamen lay dead, 977 of them in Bretagne. After the Fall of France and the Armistice of 1940, France was divided in two zones, one occupied by the Germans, and the "Free Zone", administered by the Vichy regime. Vénus was scuttled in the entrance of Toulon harbour. Shortly after the Germans attacked France on May 10, 1940, most of the vessels in French ports sailed to other harbors. At 9:10 am on July 3, the British squadron arrived off Oran and Mers el Kebir. Several submarines ignored orders to scuttle and chose to defect to French North Africa: Casabianca and Marsouin reached Algiers, Glorieux reached Oran. Some of the submarines set sail to scuttle in deeper water. On July 18, all French merchant ships in the Suez Canal were seized. 413 pp, photos, maps, bound in blue cloth. The German main force got lost in the arsenal and was behind schedule by one hour; when they reached the main gates of the base, the sentries pretended to need paperwork so as to delay the Germans without engaging in an open fight. 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. Its fuel and ammunition were surrendered to the Royal Navy. 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. Onslow, a small force comprising the 10,850-ton carrier HMS Hermes and the cruisers Australia and Dorsetshire stood off the harbor. The ship sank and exploded, burning for seven days. A remarkable history, including the tragedy of Mers-el-Kabir, where much of the fleet was fired on and sunk by the British, with the loss of over 1000 French sailors. Condition: Very Good. The fate of the fleet, in particular, was seen to be doubtful. The supply ship’s cargo of depth charges exploded, ripping open the side of Dunkerque. The Swordfish crews believed that they might have scored two or three hits, but Strasbourg was able to steam away in the darkness and eventually reach haven at the big Toulon naval base in southeastern France. It was the first clash of battle fleets in World War II, but hardly the kind of engagement expected by Admiralty planners in the prewar years; the enemy was not the German, Italian, or Japanese fleets. It seemed to Captain Holland that the French could not believe that they were about to be the targets of British gunners. In the annals of military history magazines, this is one of those moments. Somerville was regarded by Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham, commander of the British Mediterranean Fleet, as “a great sailor and a great leader.”. Four combat groups including two armoured groups and a motorcycle battalion from 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich were entrusted with the mission. Then the dreaded hour of reckoning came as the battlecruiser Hood steamed at 17 knots ahead of Admiral Somerville’s line. Dunkerque appeared to have hit a mine, with the loss of 210 dead, and grounded her bows on the shore opposite her berth. After the remnants of the French Army were required by the Germans to disband, French sailors had to man coast defence artillery and anti-aircraft guns themselves, which made it impossible swiftly to gather the crews and have the ships quickly under way. Two British officers were wounded, a leading seaman killed, an able seaman wounded, and a Frenchman killed. “In a village near Toulon dwelt two peasant families, each of whom had lost their sailor son by British fire at Oran,” related the prime minister. The Royal Navy maintained a small force of destroyers at Gibraltar, largely for Atlantic convoy work, but the Western Mediterranean was primarily the responsibility of the French Navy - although British reinforcements could soon be dispatched from the Home Fleet as shortly happened. “But the utmost endeavors were made with success to reassure and comfort the French sailors,” said Churchill. At 4 a.m. the Germans entered Fort Lamalgue and arrested Marquis, but failed to prevent his chief-of-staff, Contre-Admiral Robin, from calling the chief of the arsenal, Contre-Admiral Dornon. The officer of the watch aboard the battleship Bretagne saluted him smartly. The French fleet had been in the XVIIth and even more at the time of the seven years war (under louis XV) arguably on par with the Royal Navy at least in terms of numbers. 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. Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapse & French Fleet Sunk at Oran Newsreel 70680. 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. On July 3, 1940, Force H was dispatched to Mers el Kebir. The emissary urged that the French should be asked for a final reply before any hostile action was taken. The armistice stipulated that the French fleet would be largely disarmed and confined to its harbours, under French control. Cornered in confined waters and with limited fields of fire because of neighboring vessels, the French warships fired back as best they could. Most of the light cruisers were salvaged by the Italians, either to restore them as fighting ships or for scrap. The scuttling of the French fleet at Toulon was orchestrated by Vichy France on 27 November 1942 to prevent Nazi German forces from taking it over. Financial troubles, however, forced the navy back to port and allowed the English and the Dutch to regain the initiative. Four combat groups including two armoured groups and a motorcycle battalion from 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich were entrusted with the mission. The main guns from the scuttled battleship Provence were later removed and used in a former French turret battery at Saint-Mandrier-sur-Mer, guarding the approaches to Toulon, to replace original fortress guns, sabotaged by their French crews. He was considered a traitor and was assassinated in 1942. “A funeral service was arranged to which all their neighbors sought to go. 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. Jan 18, 2016 - HMS Hood was a noted battlescruiser that entered service with the Royal Navy in 1920 and was later sunk by the German battleship Bismarck in May 1941. Anton was judged a failure, with the capture of 39 small ships, while the French destroyed 77 vessels; several submarines escaped to French North Africa. The British bombardment of the base killed 1,297 French servicemen, sank a battleshipand damaged five ot… Crews were initially hostile to the Allied invasion but out of the general anti-German sentiment and as rumours about Darlan's defection circulated, this stance evolved towards backing De Gaulle. The action was sudden, and overwhelming force was used. Meanwhile, the captain of the cruiser Marseillaise ordered his ship capsized and demolition charges set. Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, commander of the Kriegsmarine, believed that French Navy officers would fulfil their armistice duty not to let the ships fall in the hands of a foreign nation. Set sail! Some French submarines took to the deep sea to the shuttle while some vessels escaped to North Africa. (Read even more about these and other events that shaped the 20th century inside the pages of WWII History magazine. 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. Vichy French Fleet. Scuttle!" A few minutes later the cruiser Colbert exploded. At 8:55 pm, they approached the French battleship at a height of 20 feet and loosed their torpedoes into a calm sea. 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. The objective of Operation Lila was to capture the units of the French fleet at Toulon intact, and was carried out by the 7th Panzer Division, augmented with units from other divisions. 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. 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. Hitler's plan was to have German sailors capture the French ships and turn them over to Italy; German officers privy to this plan were critical but their objections were ignored. 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