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With the hindsight we have now... was the attack on the French Fleet in mers el Kebir by the RN a justified action, an unfortunate but necessary evil, or simple treachery ... ?

Are there any good english language books on it?

Thanks

Chris

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With the hindsight we have now... was the attack on the French Fleet in mers el Kebir by the RN a justified action, an unfortunate but necessary evil, or simple treachery ... ?

Are there any good english language books on it?

Thanks

Chris

this fantastic group started it all off for me...

http://gmic.co.uk/index.php?showtopic=47292&pid=436188&st=0&#entry436188

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Well the filter of time has made it seem somewhat questionable. However the original intent of preventing this fleet from becoming part of the Axis Navy is still valid. I have just completed the book "A Man Called Intrepid" which is the biogrphy of WW2 British Intell master Wm Stephenson, it touches on the topic but not in any great length. Naval power in the Mediterrenaen was already in favor of the Axis powers and the possible addition of the French Fleet could have easily swung this full into Axis hands. The need to keep the Suez canal open and to interdict German and Italian supplies to North Africa was of great strategic importance for Great Britain as well as the Allies.

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As well as keeping the French Fleet out of Axis hands it was also an important action with regards to showing the watching world, noteably the USA, that Britain still had the will, and intention, to fight at a time when it would of been easy to doubt this after the setbacks in the Norwegian & French Campaigns and with the threat of an impending invasion.

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As well as keeping the French Fleet out of Axis hands it was also an important action with regards to showing the watching world, noteably the USA, that Britain still had the will, and intention, to fight at a time when it would of been easy to doubt this after the setbacks in the Norwegian & French Campaigns and with the threat of an impending invasion.

Good point, this is very true, the need to bring the USA in on the side of Great Britain was always forefront in Churchill's mind. There were strong anti-interventionist (isolationist) groups in the USA prior to Dec 7, as well groups sympathetic to the Germans. Roosevelt had begun to covertly and overtly supply & support GB who at the darkest hour was hanging on by their fingernails and shear tenacity. He circumvented public opinion as well as elected members of the government because he knew it was the right thing to do.

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I believe this is a very valid point. The French Navy could not be allowed to hook up with the Axis Navies, especially in the Mediterranean. also Look at what happened in the Invasion of North Africa - The French decided to fight the Allies. So I believe this is a mute point. The British were totally justified, and very smart to do this. The contention of no Actual War existing is not valid, as the French had already been conquered by the Germans - So their status as combatants was not clear, but could be assumed to be controlled by the Axis. Which North Africa proved later. Also remember that before 1941 the Russians had non-aggression treaties with Hilter, so Russia was not an Ally. This was a grim period for England, with "The Battle of Britain" going on. Cheers Captain Albert

Edited by army historian

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With the hindsight we have now... was the attack on the French Fleet in mers el Kebir by the RN a justified action, an unfortunate but necessary evil, or simple treachery ... ?

I think the answer depends on which side of the English Channel you live. The French fleet was controlled by Vichy and would probable do whatever Hitler wanted.

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I think the answer depends on which side of the English Channel you live. The French fleet was controlled by Vichy and would probable do whatever Hitler wanted.

Hmm... not neccisarily.... part of this fleet escaped to France. When the Germans marched to try and take over the fleet the French commander (Who had also been in command during the British attack) scuttled the fleet before the Germans could lay hands on the ships.

He then sent a letter to Churchill saying he had done his honorable duty, as he would have done at Mers El Kebir if the Germans had tried to take over the ships.

So basically the whole tragedy was... it seems the attack was done "incase" the French gave the ships to the Germans, and later they showed they would not have given them over...

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I guess the answer probably lies somewhere in between, I certainly understand that the French considered mers el kebir an act of treachery, I had heard that many survivors could never forgive the RN for the action as they had not actually declared a state of hostility with England.

Britain had a tenuous control of the sea even though its land operations were struggling and it could not afford to have a combined Franco- German ( which would have undoubtedly been a significant match for the RN) fleet harrasing the sea lanes and further restricting supplies.

i understood that the British did not simply attack the French fleet outright but gave them several ultimatums that could have prevented the action. because of the inability of the French commander at Mers El Kebir to make a decision and instead wanting to " negotiate " what was not really presented as a discussion the British reacted rather than waste precious time tying up precious resources and manpower.

Churchill wanted to send a message to the world that he intended to maintain the fight against any country who presented a threat to the UK and Mers El Kebir sent that message very clearly.

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