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Panzerknacker
04-17-2007, 09:19 PM
Mers-El-Kebir, The war between friends:

With the success of Blitzkrieg on France, the British admiralty was forced to consider a new possibility. When France falls, Germany will be able to force the French Navy into German use. This navy, when combined with the German and Italian navies, would outclass even the massive Royal Navy.


As a result, the British launched Force H (http://www.angelfire.com/ia/totalwar/MersElKebir.html#ForceH), based around the carrier Ark Royal and the battlecruiser Hood. This group set out from England, arriving off Mers-El-Kebir on July 3, 1940. With this, Admiral Somerville delivered his ultimatum to the French commander, Admiral Marcel-Bruno Gensoul in person.


The french ships in Argelia before the attack:

http://img337.imageshack.us/img337/8174/00merselkebiravantlattaur2.jpg


Admiral Gensoul refused, fearing that the German Wehrmacht would retaliate by destroying many innocent French people. With this, Admiral Somerville was forced to return to the battlecruiser Hood, to carry out the threat. The Admiral felt sickened with the idea and stepped down as commander of the ships, with Admiral Cunningham becoming the new commander of Force H (http://www.angelfire.com/ia/totalwar/MersElKebir.html#ForceH). Admiral Cunningham then ordered that the attack on the Oran Flotilla (http://www.angelfire.com/ia/totalwar/MersElKebir.html#FF) be commenced.

The HMS Hood (left) receiving near misses from shore batteries.

http://img411.imageshack.us/img411/6047/combat1lgjb4.jpg[/URL]


At 5:55 p.m., the order to open fire on the French was given. Hood, Resolution, and Valiant open fire with the main batteries, with the French ships and shore batteries (http://img411.imageshack.us/img411/6047/combat1lgjb4.jpg) returning fire shortly afterwards.


With the two sides firing, all British ships were ordered to lay smoke screens when the shore batteries began to make more successes. French ships were also attempting to get underway. The British ships split up, Resolution and Valiant moving away from the harbor, the Ark Royal remaining out of gunnery range, and the destroyer Forester leaving after a small boat is sighted. Hood, Arethusa, and Enterprise attempt to sink the French battleship Strasbourg, which had managed to escape from the harbor.

At 7:34 p.m, a destroyer spots the British ships and changes course to intercept. The cruisers open fire 5 minutes later, followed shortly by the destroyer. The Hood begins firing with her main batteries, and the unidentified ship responds by making a torpedo attack, which fails.
Aircraft sightings are reported, beginning at 7:44 p.m., and the carrier Ark Royal sights one battleship and six destroyers as the air attacks begin. The air attacks continue until 8:53 p.m., but without much success, so the forces join together.

Aircraft from the Ark Royal are launched against some of the fleeing French units, but with little success.

http://img337.imageshack.us/img337/2797/102003238fy7.jpg

After the days battle, the battleship Dunkerque and Provence are heavily damaged, as is the destroyer Mogador, which lost its stern during the attack, but only the battleship Bretagne is sunk.

Strasbourg, the battlecruiser which succeeded in slipping from the harbor, escapes with the destroyers Volta, Tigre, Lynx, Kersaint, and Le Terrible. The Strasbourg arrives with Volta, Tigre, and Le Terrible the next day.
Damages to Force H (http://www.angelfire.com/ia/totalwar/MersElKebir.html#ForceH) are light, with very few hits being made, but the French suffered a heavy blow. The French lost 1,147 sailors aboard Mogador, Dunquerque, and Bretagne.


The destroyer Mogador is hit by an 381 mm shell:

http://img403.imageshack.us/img403/2484/88026020yv8.jpg



However, several of the ships managed to enter British ports after making their escape, with 1 battleship, 3 destroyers, 13 torpedo boats, 12 sloops, 6 submarines, along with numerous other craft. In this aspect, the French navy had divided itself into the Free French naval units, who then would need to fight against those who had remained in Germany, called the Vichy French.

Mers-El-Kebir was terryfing in its execution, in total 1297 french ( and some argelian civilians) were killed,. This mini-Pearl Harbour put a bitter differences between the formes allies, many outraged frenchman turned the table and join to the german war effort.



Carriers: Ark Royal
Battlecruisers: Hood
Battleships: Valiant and Resolution
Cruisers: Arethusa and Enterprise
Destroyers: Faulknor, Foxhound, Fearless, Forester, Foresight, Escort, Keppel, Active, Wrestler, Vidette, and Vortigern.


French Flotilla

Battleships: Provence (Damaged) and Bretagne (Sunk)
Battlecruisers: Strasbourg and Dunkerque (Damaged)
Destroyers: Mogador (Damaged), Volta, Tigre, Lynx (Unknown damage), Kersaint (Unknown damage), Le Terrible
Seaplane Tender: Commandant Teste


French Shore Batteries

Canastel Battery-three 24 centimeter guns
Fort Santoni-three 19.4 centimeter guns
Gambetta Battery-four 12 centimeter guns Espagnole Battery-two 7.5 centimeter guns


----------


Sources:

[URL]http://www.angelfire.com/ia/totalwar/MersElKebir.html

http://perso.dromadaire.fr/lucky/___Mers-El-Kebir.html

http://www.merselkebir.org/juillet1940.htm#Photos40

http://www.histarmar.com.ar/ArchivoFotosGral/ArchivoDaly/Dalyships1.htm

http://hsgm.free.fr/divers.htm

Panzerknacker
04-30-2007, 08:35 PM
More images of the attack:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-XxWD3aTg4

Rising Sun*
05-01-2007, 04:04 AM
Related events at Dakar, with a lot less success.

Not my favourite source, but reasonable summary here
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Dakar

arhob1
05-01-2007, 01:08 PM
These events always amazed and disgusted me.

Surely when the French were defeated the French Navy should have embarked for the UK. If that wasn't possible they should have scuttled their ships. How they could entertain them falling in to German hands is beyond me.

pdf27
05-01-2007, 05:17 PM
Surely when the French were defeated the French Navy should have embarked for the UK. If that wasn't possible they should have scuttled their ships. How they could entertain them falling in to German hands is beyond me.
They didn't - they regarded the Vichy regime as the legitimate French government, and that government commanded the ships - not the Germans. De Gaulle wasn't the legitimate French leader - he just decided that he was going to be the government in exile, and had the personality to make it stick. It was only with the fall of French North Africa to the Allies after the Torch landings that the Germans occupied the Vichy area and attempted to seize the French fleet in Toulon harbour. At this point the French promptly scuttled them. Only a very, very few French officers ever contemplated handing their ships over to the Germans, and these would have almost all been committed French Fascists - a fairly rare breed.

Panzerknacker
05-01-2007, 08:22 PM
Not a very diplomatic move.

pdf27
05-02-2007, 01:14 PM
Not a very diplomatic move.
Note the date - July 1940! One month after Dunkirk, and less than a week before the start of the Battle of Britain. In that climate, the British government would be acting like world-class paranoids, because apart from the Empire the whole world really WAS out to get them. The French fleet was a deadly danger to the UK, but the rest of the country was no threat and of no value as a friend.

In those circumstances, diplomacy doesn't come in to it. The French fleet was correctly given the choice of surrendering and being demilitarised, or being destroyed. They declined to surrender - thus effectively declaring their intention to fight for the Germans, as they had no other reason not to - and so were destroyed.

Firefly
05-02-2007, 04:36 PM
Was the Vichy Government hostile to the UK? They were seen as mere Axis Puppets so I think that the UK Government at the time would have seen the Fleet as being on the German side and thus the consequences.

Panzerknacker
05-02-2007, 06:20 PM
Note the date - July 1940! One month after Dunkirk, and less than a week before the start of the Battle of Britain. In that climate, the British government would be acting like world-class paranoids, because apart from the Empire the whole world really WAS out to get them. The French fleet was a deadly danger to the UK, but the rest of the country was no threat and of no value as a friend.

In those circumstances, diplomacy doesn't come in to it. The French fleet was correctly given the choice of surrendering and being demilitarised, or being destroyed. They declined to surrender - thus effectively declaring their intention to fight for the Germans, as they had no other reason not to - and so were destroyed


Yes, buy how many frenchs were willing to fight against the british before the attack, and how many after...?

pdf27
05-03-2007, 01:15 PM
Yes, buy how many frenchs were willing to fight against the british before the attack, and how many after...?
Before: if ANY were then we were in deep, deep trouble.
After: it doesn't matter, they haven't got anything they can actually hurt us with!

Panzerknacker
05-03-2007, 01:34 PM
Perhaps, but without Mers-el-kebir, the invation of Africa in 1942 probably could be done smoother, I mean without losing 42 aircraft to the French fighters.

Nickdfresh
05-03-2007, 05:20 PM
Perhaps, but without Mers-el-kebir, the invation of Africa in 1942 probably could be done smoother, I mean without losing 42 aircraft to the French fighters.

The consequences of this action, as well as The Battle of Madagascar, reverberated well into Operation Torch, which was somewhat fraudulently posed as almost solely an American operation in and attempt to assuage the colonial Vichy forces. And of course, this didn't work too well...

And far more than 42 fighters were lost. Several hundred US soldiers were killed in an ill conceived "coup de main" operation to take Oran and its harbor without firing a shot using two RN cutters to ferry US infantry ashore to both intimidate and beckon the French to hand it over. It turned into a bloody fight as both cutters were lost and all US troops were killed or captured by the Vichy Navy and Marines...

The fighting would continue for weeks...

pdf27
05-04-2007, 07:55 AM
Perhaps, but without Mers-el-kebir, the invation of Africa in 1942 probably could be done smoother, I mean without losing 42 aircraft to the French fighters.
So what? In the grand scheme of things, losing a few hundred men dead is nothing compared to losing your homeland captured.

Rising Sun*
05-04-2007, 08:35 AM
I think that the actions of the Vichy Government and its forces (the scuttling of the French Fleet at Toulon being the exception) from its inception showed that it was either sympathetic to or forced to support Nazi Germany. And it ain't hard to work out which of these possibilities it chose after 1940, because it didn't have a gun to its head in its subsequent pro-Nazi actions.

The French Navy at Omran and elsewhere were under the apparent legal control of the Vichy Government.

As were the French forces on land in Syria.

The refusal of those land and sea forces to accept the opportunities to avoid British assaults offered to them shows that, whether by inclination or obedience to the Vichy Government, they were opposed to Britain, which had sent forces into France to defend it against Germany. France, as usual, never sent any forces anywhere to do anything for anyone else.

Whatever, these French forces had become aligned with Germany and were opposed to their former Ally, Britain.

So, having renounced their part in the Alliance with Britain and having aligned themselves with Germany, they deserved what they got.

It's a sad fact, but France's claim to be an Ally is weak. It did a bloody sight more for the Axis during most of the war. But for de Gaulle, who had no legitimate authority as the leader of the so-called Free French, France was a defeated nation which threw in its hand with the Axis powers.

arhob1
05-05-2007, 05:49 AM
They didn't - they regarded the Vichy regime as the legitimate French government, and that government commanded the ships - not the Germans. De Gaulle wasn't the legitimate French leader - he just decided that he was going to be the government in exile, and had the personality to make it stick. It was only with the fall of French North Africa to the Allies after the Torch landings that the Germans occupied the Vichy area and attempted to seize the French fleet in Toulon harbour. At this point the French promptly scuttled them. Only a very, very few French officers ever contemplated handing their ships over to the Germans, and these would have almost all been committed French Fascists - a fairly rare breed.

My point is that they shouldn't have been sat around in a port with the precarious situation in the West at that time. They should NEVER have put themselves in the situation where they had to scuttle their own ships or the British would destroy them.

At that time the French Navy's number one priority should have been to keep their fleet in one piece and put it at the disposal of the allies. The fact it had to be destroyed and was therefore of no use to the allied cause shows incompetence to me.

Arguing that the French Navy was correct in aligning itself with the Vichy Nazi puppet government is ridiculous.

pdf27
05-05-2007, 07:52 AM
At that time the French Navy's number one priority should have been to keep their fleet in one piece and put it at the disposal of the allies. The fact it had to be destroyed and was therefore of no use to the allied cause shows incompetence to me.

Arguing that the French Navy was correct in aligning itself with the Vichy Nazi puppet government is ridiculous.
Morally, yes. However, in the western tradition military forces are subordinate to political governments. And that political government had decided that the best interests of France were served by as good as throwing their lot in with the Germans. That is why a number of us on here regard the French war effort as being perilously close to a co-belligerent with Germany, rather than on the allied side.

Rising Sun*
05-05-2007, 08:35 AM
Arguing that the French Navy was correct in aligning itself with the Vichy Nazi puppet government is ridiculous.

My antipathy towards the Vichy government nothwithstanding, I'm not so sure.

The French armed forces were, as is the custom in all nations, controlled by their government. Leaving aside the arguments about the legitimacy of the appointment of the Vichy government which raises interesting issues about French constitutional law and the processes and voting that put Petain in, the only choices available to the French armed forces were to accept or reject the legitimacy of that government.

I don't think we can criticise the French armed force commanders for accepting the legitimacy of the Vichy government. What other source of authority could they have accepted? It wasn't in the nature of senior officers in any Western nation to make their own rules.

I think we can reasonably recognise de Gaulle and his adherents as exceptionally brave in declining to accept the Vichy government, but it's unfair to expect captains of large and small French ships to defy orders from above from the Vichy government, whatever their and their crews' personal views.

Uyraell
03-15-2009, 10:36 AM
My antipathy towards the Vichy government nothwithstanding, I'm not so sure.

The French armed forces were, as is the custom in all nations, controlled by their government. Leaving aside the arguments about the legitimacy of the appointment of the Vichy government which raises interesting issues about French constitutional law and the processes and voting that put Petain in, the only choices available to the French armed forces were to accept or reject the legitimacy of that government.

I don't think we can criticise the French armed force commanders for accepting the legitimacy of the Vichy government. What other source of authority could they have accepted? It wasn't in the nature of senior officers in any Western nation to make their own rules.

I think we can reasonably recognise de Gaulle and his adherents as exceptionally brave in declining to accept the Vichy government, but it's unfair to expect captains of large and small French ships to defy orders from above from the Vichy government, whatever their and their crews' personal views.

...Which is precisely where the discussion now touches on the personalities of those involved, Notably: Gensoul (effectively Pro German), Darlan (effectively Pro USA, therefore Allied), Cunningham ("Do as needs to be done: deal with regrets later.") Churchill (Preserve the Royal Navy or we are Lost).

In effect, with the (most likely French-organised) murder of Darlan, Britain was left with no operational or strategic recourse other than to neutralise by whatever available means the French Fleet-in-being.

Regards, Uyraell.

Cojimar 1945
03-16-2009, 12:47 AM
I think its perfectly understandable that the French would not want to turn their ships over to the British given all the bloody conflicts between the people of the countries including a number of terrible naval defeats for the French including the infamous Trafalgar turkey shoot.

However, they could have sent the ships to Ireland or the United States. I wonder why this was not done?

pdf27
03-16-2009, 02:22 AM
It's possible to overemphasise Trafalgar, given the incredibly bloody war the two countries had fought and won as allies only 20 years before - and I think it's unnecessary anyway. If your country has just lost a major war and is under partial military occupation, how keen would you be to give away most of your remaining military assets?

Rising Sun*
03-16-2009, 05:11 AM
I think its perfectly understandable that the French would not want to turn their ships over to the British given all the bloody conflicts between the people of the countries including a number of terrible naval defeats for the French including the infamous Trafalgar turkey shoot.

However, they could have sent the ships to Ireland or the United States. I wonder why this was not done?

Imagine yourself as a commander of a French ship with that option.

If you hand over the ship even to a neutral country, will your family in France be persecuted by the Germans, or the Vichy government, in retaliation?

Will the same happen to the families of all members of your crew?

Or do you just follow your government's orders, as is your duty, and hope for the best?

Anyway, why would a non-belligerent country like the US or Ireland want to attract unnecessary attention from the Germans by accepting these ships at a time when it looked like Germany had a good chance of winning? There was nothing in it for them, and especially for the US whose corporations were making useful profits out of the European war from Germany until the end of 1941.

As for any lingering bitterness over the by then ancient Trafalgar event, as pdf27 indicated that should have been wiped out by French gratitude for Britain's efforts in WWI.

Schuultz
03-16-2009, 11:35 AM
Not to mention the lack of any real incentive aside the moral one. The soldier's loyalty belongs to his government, and it is not up to him to choose whether one likes the governments choice of alliance or not. He might be able to resist committing war crimes, but as long as the orders stay within the laws, he has absolutely justification to say no.

Aside from his role as an instrument of the Government, the captain has absolutely no right to his ship, so when his government tells him to fight the British or bring the ship into a French harbour, who is he to say no?

Cojimar 1945
03-17-2009, 04:43 PM
Rising Sun, surely you jest. You think helping the French from 1914-18 makes up for the Napoleonic Wars, French Revolutionary Wars, American Revolutionary Wars, Seven Years War and the War of the Austrian Succession? These are just Franco-British conflicts that I can think up offhand but doubtless there are more that have happened. Perhaps helping the French once would make up for one of these wars but surely not all of them.

Also, I thought the reason for Britain entering the war in 1914 was the violation of Belgian neutrality. I don't think the British were committed to protecting France itself.

Schuultz
03-17-2009, 05:18 PM
Also, I thought the reason for Britain entering the war in 1914 was the violation of Belgian neutrality. I don't think the British were committed to protecting France itself.

A major reason that Britain joined WW1 was that the German Empire was building its own powerful navy, and, to a certain extent, they wanted to prove that they were still the lords of the sea.

pdf27
03-17-2009, 05:40 PM
Rising Sun, surely you jest. You think helping the French from 1914-18 makes up for the Napoleonic Wars, French Revolutionary Wars, American Revolutionary Wars, Seven Years War and the War of the Austrian Succession? These are just Franco-British conflicts that I can think up offhand but doubtless there are more that have happened. Perhaps helping the French once would make up for one of these wars but surely not all of them.
The British suffered massively more casualties in WW1 than in ALL the other wars mentioned. Oh, and you missed a few biggies like the Norman Conquest and the Hundred Years War...


Also, I thought the reason for Britain entering the war in 1914 was the violation of Belgian neutrality. I don't think the British were committed to protecting France itself.
Reason given to the public. The reality is that they were not going to accept German hegemony on the continent, and accordingly allied themselves with France to prevent this.

Schuultz
03-17-2009, 05:48 PM
The British suffered massively more casualties in WW1 than in ALL the other wars mentioned.

You're exaggerating...

pdf27
03-17-2009, 06:38 PM
Go crunch the numbers. The UK population at the time of most of those wars was about the same size as the casualties we took in WW1. Furthermore, the Norman Conquest is the only one to reach UK soil - so the majority of the casualties would have been non-UK nationals.

Nickdfresh
03-17-2009, 07:10 PM
As far as the argument in regards to legality, I'd like to explore what the actual legality of the Vichy Regime was - and how the Free French forces under Degaulle and the FFI, made a legal argument of sorts for their continued resistance after capitulation....

I haven't researched this or anything, but I do know that the elected head of state, Paul Reynaud, was in favor of continuing the War. Even if it meant doing so from the colonies and Britain...didn't his overthrow almost amount to a coup?

redcoat
03-18-2009, 06:55 AM
I haven't researched this or anything, but I do know that the elected head of state, Paul Reynaud, was in favor of continuing the War. Even if it meant doing so from the colonies and Britain...didn't his overthrow almost amount to a coup?
He was forced to resign as he had lost the support of his political allies.
Petain, as far as I'm aware, was appointed head of state in a legal manner according to the French political system.
De Gaulle and the FFI, on the other hand, had no legal authority under the rules of the French political system.

ps; At the time of Mers-el-Kebir the French and British were no longer Allies, as under the terms of their alliance both agreed that neither of them would seek a separate peace with the enemy without the permission of the other. The French broke this agreement, so the alliance had ended.

Rising Sun*
03-18-2009, 08:18 AM
Petain, as far as I'm aware, was appointed head of state in a legal manner according to the French political system.


I think there is a legal or constitutional debate about that. I'll try to dig up something on it.

Rising Sun*
03-18-2009, 09:10 AM
Google has a long way to go. Or maybe I need to refine my search terms. 'Coz I can't find what I was looking for.

Anyway, my recollection is that there was an issue about the absence of members of the French parliament which raised doubt about whether the votes of those present amounted to a valid act in appointing Petain.

Cojimar 1945
03-18-2009, 11:20 AM
Correct me if I'm wrong but I thought the British declaration of war did in fact follow violation of Belgian neutrality and that the British had previously indicated that they would enter the war if this occurred. Speculating to their actual motives is fine but I don't see how people can be sure they would have entered the war in different circumstances.

Uyraell
03-19-2009, 01:34 AM
Google has a long way to go. Or maybe I need to refine my search terms. 'Coz I can't find what I was looking for.

Anyway, my recollection is that there was an issue about the absence of members of the French parliament which raised doubt about whether the votes of those present amounted to a valid act in appointing Petain.
AIR, there were not the numbers in Petain's group, and his "Government" only established "legitmacy" via recognition by Germany, Japan, Italy.

As such, it is very easy to argue that De Gaulle's lot had as legitmate a claim, to be the Government of France, by virtue of recognition by Holland, Britain, Canada.

Reynaud seems to have been very quickly sidelined by Petain's lot, so I'm not certain any pronunciamento of his would be regarded as having either validity or legitimacy, despite his legalised position.

Thus, one could argue that under existing International Law at the time, neither "Government" was a legally constituted one, and that both were in effect the results of coups d'etat. For the sake of convenience, it has always been historically accepted that both "Governments" were legitimate within their respective spheres, their very shaky legal basis notwithstanding.

Regards, Uyraell.

Nickdfresh
03-19-2009, 03:07 AM
Part of the "shaky" legal argument against Pétain is that he nearly tried Reynaud, then handed him over to the Germans for internment...

redcoat
03-19-2009, 03:50 PM
AIR, there were not the numbers in Petain's group, and his "Government" only established "legitmacy" via recognition by Germany, Japan, Italy..No. Most neutral nations also recognised Petain's government, the most important one to do so was the United States Of America

Uyraell
03-20-2009, 02:09 AM
No. Most neutral nations also recognised Petain's government, the most important one to do so was the United States Of America

Be that so, then I gladly accept the reproof, with Thanks, redcoat. :)

I was going by memory, which I admit is not always wise.

The fact is, the vast majority of the hundreds of reference sources I once had at hand no-longer exist in my possession, due to My collection having been disbursed beyond recovery, without my permission.

______________________________
To return to topic.
I have several times over the years revisited the question of legitimacy of governments, not least when the issue resurfaces through the media detailing this or that government of various former colonies having issues domestically.

Thus it is, that France, Spain, and certain of the Balkan states enter My thoughts again, in terms of the legalities I was taught in High School, regarding states and their governments.

While I agree a case can be made for the Petain regime, I have always adopted the conventional historiographic axiom of dual legalities applying to the cases of alternate governments under Petain and De Gaulle.

Regards, Uyraell.