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England sinks the French fleet.


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Just giving a heads up for a tv program on UK channel 4 on Monday 25th 9.20pm uk time , as people showed an interest in this matter on a previous thread.

Churchill's Darkest Decision

The story behind Winston Churchill's decision to sink a fleet of French battleships during the summer of 1940. Intended to prevent French battleships from coming under German control and making Hitler's threat to invade Britain more achievable, the event led to the deaths of 1,300 French sailors. This film features interviews with French survivors and a British war veteran who opened fire on his former allies, as well as contributions from Churchill's biographer.

But it appears the UK did not sink many of them , and it was the French themselfs who scuttled the fleet 2 years latter.

French scuttle their fleet

On November 27 1942 , French Admiral Jean de Laborde sinks the French fleet anchored in Toulon harbor, off the southern coast of France, in order to keep it out of German hands.

In June 1940, after the German invasion of France and the establishment of an unoccupied zone in the southeast, led by Gen. Philippe Petain, Adm. Jean Darlan was committed to keeping the French fleet out of German control. At the same time, as a minister in the government that had signed an armistice with the Germans, one that promised a relative "autonomy" to Vichy France, Darlan was prohibited from sailing that fleet to British or neutral waters. But a German-commandeered fleet in southern France, so close to British-controlled regions in North Africa, could prove disastrous to the Brits, who decided to take matters into their own hands by launching Operation Catapult: the attempt by a British naval force to persuade the French naval commander at Oran to either break the armistice and sail the French fleet out of the Germans' grasp-or to scuttle it. And if the French wouldn't, the Brits would.

And the British tried. In a five-minute missile bombardment, they managed to sink one French cruiser and two old battleships. They also killed 1,250 French sailors. This would be the genesis of much bad blood between France and England throughout the war. General Petain broke off diplomatic relations with Great Britain.

But two years later, with the Germans now in Vichy and the armistice already violated, Admiral Laborde finished the job the British had started. As the Germans launched Operation Lila, the attempt to commandeer the French fleet, Laborde ordered the sinking of 2 battle cruisers, 4 heavy cruisers, 2 light cruisers, 1 aircraft transport, 30 destroyers, and 16 submarines. Three French subs managed to escape the Germans and make it to Algiers, Allied territory. Only one sub fell into German hands. The marine equivalent of a scorched-earth policy had succeeded.

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  • 2 weeks later...

When we had a maison secondaire in the Haute Vienne our then neighbour across the road had a model of a corvette on his mantle piece. He had spent 1939 to 1944 on a Free French corvette off the coast of Scotland . Did not seem polite to ask why or how they had escaped France.


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