Attack on Mers-el-Kébir

The Attack on Mers-el-Kébir (3 July 1940) also known as the Battle of Mers-el-Kébir, was part of Operation Catapult. The operation was a British naval attack on French Navy ships at the base at Mers El Kébir on the coast of French Algeria. The bombardment killed 1,297 French servicemen, sank a battleship and damaged five ships, for a British loss of five aircraft shot down and two crewmen killed.

The attack by air-and-sea was conducted by the Royal Navy after France had signed armistices with Germany and Italy that came into effect on 25 June. Of particular significance to the British were the seven battleships of the Bretagne, Dunkerque and Richelieu classes, the second largest force of capital ships in Europe after the Royal Navy. The British War Cabinet feared already that France would hand the ships to the Kriegsmarine, giving the Axis assistance in the Battle of the Atlantic. Admiral François Darlan, commander of the French Navy, promised the British that the fleet would remain under French control but Winston Churchill and the War Cabinet judged that the fleet was too powerful to risk an Axis take-over.

After the attack at Mers-el-Kébir and the Battle of Dakar, French aircraft raided Gibraltar in retaliation and the Vichy government severed diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom. The attack created much rancour between France and Britain but also demonstrated to the world that Britain intended to fight on.[2] The attack is controversial and the motives of the British are debated. In 1979, P. M. H. Bell wrote that "The times were desperate; invasion seemed imminent; and the British government simply could not afford to risk the Germans seizing control of the French fleet... The predominant British motive was thus dire necessity and self-preservation".

The French thought they were acting honourably in terms of their armistice with Nazi Germany and were convinced they would never turn over their fleet to Germany. Vichy France was created on 10 July 1940, one week after the attack and was seen by the British as a puppet state of the Nazi regime. French grievances festered for years over what they considered a betrayal by their ally. On 27 November 1942, the scuttling of the French fleet in Toulon foiled Operation Anton, a German attempt to capture the rest of the French fleet after the Allied invasion of Morocco and French Algeria in Operation Torch.


Franco-German armistice

After the Fall of France in 1940 and the armistice between France and Nazi Germany, the British War Cabinet was apprehensive about the Germans acquiring control of the French navy from the government of Vichy France. The French and German navies combined could alter the balance of power at sea, threatening British imports over the Atlantic and communications with the rest of the British Empire. That the armistice terms at article eight paragraph two stated that the German government "solemnly and firmly declared that it had no intention of making demands regarding the French fleet during the peace negotiations" and that similar terms existed in the armistice with Italy, were considered to be no guarantee of the neutralisation of the French fleet. On 24 June, Darlan assured Winston Churchill against such a possibility.[3] Churchill ordered that a demand be made that the French Navy (Marine nationale) should either join with the Royal Navy or be neutralised in a manner guaranteed to prevent the ships falling into Axis hands.[4]

At Italian suggestion, the armistice terms were amended to permit the French fleet to stay temporarily in North African ports, where they might be seized by Italian troops from Libya. The British made contingency plans to eliminate the French fleet (Operation Catapult) in mid-June, when it was clear that Philippe Pétain was forming a government with a view to signing an armistice and it seemed likely that the French fleet might be seized by the Germans.[5] In a speech to Parliament, Churchill repeated that the Armistice of 22 June 1940 was a betrayal of the Allied agreement not to make a separate peace. Churchill said "What is the value of that? Ask half a dozen countries; what is the value of such a solemn assurance? ... Finally, the armistice could be voided at any time on any pretext of non-observance ..."[6]

The French fleet had seen little fighting during the Battle of France and was mostly intact. By tonnage, about 40 percent was in Toulon, near Marseilles, 40 percent in French North Africa and 20 percent in Britain, Alexandria and the French West Indies. Although Churchill feared the fleet would be put into action, the Axis leaders did not intend to employ a combined Franco-Italian-German force. The German Navy and Benito Mussolini made overtures but Adolf Hitler feared that the French fleet would defect to the British and be used against German submarines in the Atlantic if he tried to take it over. Churchill and Hitler viewed the fleet as a potential threat; the Vichy French leaders used the fleet (and the possibility of its rejoining the Allies) as a bargaining counter against the Germans to keep them out of the Zone libre and French North Africa. The armistice was contingent on the French right to man their vessels and the French Navy Minister, Admiral François Darlan, had ordered the Atlantic fleet to Toulon to demobilise, with orders to scuttle if the Germans tried to take the ships.[7]

British-French negotiations

The British tried to persuade the French authorities in North Africa to continue the war, or alternatively to hand over the fleet to British control. A British admiral visited Oran on 24 June, and on 27 June Duff Cooper, Minister of Information, visited Casablanca.[8] The French Atlantic ports were in German hands, while the British needed to keep the German surface fleet out of the Mediterranean, to confine the Italian fleet to the Mediterranean and to blockade the Vichy ports. The Admiralty was against an attack on the French fleet, since if not enough damage were done to the ships, Vichy France would be provoked into declaring war and the French colonial empire as a result become more hostile to the Free French Forces. Given the need to keep the Atlantic approaches open, and given that the Royal Navy lacked the ships to provide a permanent blockade on the Vichy naval bases in North Africa, the risk of having the Germans or the Italians seize the French capital ships was deemed too great. Because the fleet in Toulon was well guarded by shore artillery, the Royal Navy decided to attack that based in North Africa.[9]

Operation Catapult

French ships based in Africa, June 1940

Along with French vessels in metropolitan ports, some had sailed to ports in Britain or to Alexandria in Egypt. Operation Catapult was an attempt to take these ships under British control or destroy them, and the French ships in Plymouth and Portsmouth were boarded without warning on the night of 3 July 1940.[10][11] The submarine Surcouf, the largest submarine in the world, had been berthed in Plymouth since June 1940.[12] The crew resisted a boarding party and three Royal Navy personnel, including two officers, were killed along with a French sailor. Other ships captured included the old battleships Paris and Courbet, the destroyers Le Triomphant and Léopard, eight torpedo boats, five submarines and a number of lesser ships. The French squadron in Alexandria (Admiral René-Émile Godfroy) including the battleship Lorraine, heavy cruiser Suffren and three modern light cruisers, was neutralised by local agreement.[13]


The most powerful group of French warships was at Mers-el-Kébir in French Algeria, consisting of the old battleships Provence and Bretagne, the newer Force de Raid battleships Dunkerque and Strasbourg, the seaplane tender Commandant Teste and six destroyers under the command of Admiral Marcel-Bruno Gensoul. Admiral James Somerville of Force H, based in Gibraltar, was ordered to deliver an ultimatum to the French but the British terms were contrary to the German-French armistice terms.[8][a] Somerville passed the duty of presenting the ultimatum to a French speaker, Captain Cedric Holland, commander of the carrier HMS Ark Royal. Gensoul was affronted that negotiations were not being conducted by a senior officer and sent his lieutenant, Bernard Dufay, which led to much delay and confusion. As negotiations dragged on, it became clear that neither side was likely to give way. Darlan was at home on 3 July and could not be contacted; Gensoul told the French government that the alternatives were internment or battle but omitted the option of sailing to the French West Indies.[8] Removing the fleet to United States waters had formed part of the orders given by Darlan to Gensoul in the event that a foreign power should attempt to seize his ships.[14]


HMS Ark Royal planes
Blackburn Skuas of No 800 Squadron Fleet Air Arm prepare to take off from HMS Ark Royal

The British force comprised the battlecruiser HMS Hood, the battleships HMS Valiant and Resolution, the aircraft carrier Ark Royal and an escort of cruisers and destroyers. The British had the advantage of being able to manoeuvre, while the French fleet was anchored in a narrow harbour and its crews did not expect an attack. The main armament of Dunkerque and Strasbourg was grouped on their bows and could not immediately be brought to bear. The British capital ships had 15-inch (381 mm) guns and fired a heavier broadside than the French. On 3 July, before negotiations were formally terminated, British Fairey Swordfish planes escorted by Blackburn Skuas from Ark Royal dropped magnetic mines in the harbour exit. The force was intercepted by French Curtiss H-75 fighters and a Skua was shot down into the sea with the loss of its two crew, the only British fatalities in the action.[15] French warships were ordered from Algiers and Toulon as reinforcements but did not reach Mers-El-Kebir in time to affect the outcome.[8]

Attack on Mers-el-Kébir harbor-EN
Diagram of the British attack on Mers-el-Kébir

A short while later, at 5:54 p.m., Churchill ordered the British ships to open fire against the French ships and the British commenced from 17,500 yd (9.9 mi; 16.0 km).[16] The third British salvo scored hits and caused a magazine explosion aboard Bretagne, which sank with 977 of her crew at 6:09 p.m. After thirty salvoes, the French ships stopped firing; the British force altered course to avoid return fire from the French coastal forts but Provence, Dunkerque and the destroyer Mogador were damaged and run aground by their crews.[17] Strasbourg and four destroyers managed to avoid the magnetic mines and escape to the open sea under attack from a flight of bomb-armed Swordfish from Ark Royal. The French ships responded with anti-aircraft fire and shot down two Swordfish, the crews being rescued by the destroyer HMS Wrestler. As the bombing had little effect, at 6:43 p.m. Somerville ordered his forces to pursue and the light cruisers HMS Arethusa and Enterprise engaged a French destroyer. At 8:20 p.m. Somerville called off the pursuit, feeling that his ships were ill deployed for a night engagement. After another ineffective Swordfish attack at 8:55 p.m., Strasbourg reached Toulon on 4 July.[18]

Cuirassé Bretagne 03-07-1940 jpg
Battleship Bretagne burning fiercely and still under shellfire

On 4 July, the British submarine HMS Pandora sank the French aviso (gunboat) Rigault de Genouilly, sailing from Oran, with the loss of 12 of its crew. As the British believed that the damage inflicted on Dunkerque and Provence was not serious, Swordfish aircraft from Ark Royal raided Mers-el-Kébir again on the morning of 8 July. A torpedo hit the patrol boat Terre-Neuve, which was full of depth charges and moored alongside Dunkerque. Terre-Neuve quickly sank and the depth charges went off, causing serious damage to Dunkerque.[19] The last phase of Operation Catapult was another attack on 8 July, by aircraft from the carrier HMS Hermes against the battleship Richelieu at Dakar, which was seriously damaged. The French Air Force (Armée de l'Air) made reprisal raids on Gibraltar, including a half-hearted night attack on 5 July, when many bombs landed in the sea and raids on 24 September by forty aircraft and the next day with more than a hundred bombers.[20][21]



Mogador 03-07-1940 jpg
The French destroyer Mogador running aground, after having been hit by a 15-inch shell.

Churchill wrote "This was the most hateful decision, the most unnatural and painful in which I have ever been concerned".[22] Relations between Britain and France were severely strained for some time and the Germans enjoyed a propaganda coup. Somerville said that it was "...the biggest political blunder of modern times and will rouse the whole world against us...we all feel thoroughly ashamed...".[23] Although it did rekindle anglophobia in France, the action demonstrated Britain's resolve to continue the war and rallied the British Conservative Party around Churchill (Neville Chamberlain, Churchill's predecessor as prime minister, was still party leader). The British action showed the world that defeat in France had not reduced the determination of the government to fight on and ambassadors in Mediterranean countries reported favourable reactions.[20]

The French ships in Alexandria under the command of Admiral René-Emile Godfroy, including the World War I era battleship Lorraine and four cruisers, were blockaded by the British on 3 July and offered the same terms as at Mers-el-Kébir. After delicate negotiations, conducted on the part of the British by Admiral Andrew Cunningham, Godfroy agreed on 7 July to disarm his fleet and stay in port until the end of the war.[24] Some sailors joined the Free French while others were repatriated to France; Surcouf and the ships at Alexandria went on to be used by the Free French after May 1943. The British attacks on French vessels in port sowed anger among the French towards the British and increased tension between Churchill and Charles de Gaulle, who was recognised by the British as the leader of the Free French Forces on 28 June.[25][26]

According to his principal private secretary Eric Seal, "[Churchill] was convinced that the Americans were impressed by ruthlessness in dealing with a ruthless foe; and in his mind the American reaction to our attack on the French fleet in Oran was of the first importance". On 4 July, Roosevelt told the French ambassador that he would have done the same.[27] De Gaulle's biographer Jean Lacouture blamed the tragedy mainly on miscommunication; had Darlan been in contact on the day or had Somerville possessed a more diplomatic character, a deal might have been done. Lacouture accepted that there was a danger that the French ships might have been captured by German or more likely Italian ground forces, as proven by the ease with which the British seized French ships in British ports or the German seizure of French ships in Bizerte in Tunisia in November 1942.[28][29]


Mers el Kebir Memorial at Toulon, France
Memorial on the coast path at Toulon to the 1,297 French seamen killed at Mers El Kebir
Numbers killed at Mers-el-Kébir[30]
Officers Petty
Bretagne 36 151 825 1012
Dunkerque 9 32 169 210
Provence 1 2 3
Strasbourg 2 3 5
Mogador 3 35 38
Rigault de Genouilly 3 9 12
Terre Neuve 1 1 6 8
Armen 3 3 6
Esterel 1 5 6
Total 48 202 1,050 1,300
Fleet Air Arm[15] 2

Subsequent events

British–Vichy hostilities

Following the 3 July operation, Darlan ordered the French fleet to attack Royal Navy ships wherever possible; Pétain and his foreign minister Paul Baudouin over-ruled the order the next day. Military retaliation was conducted through ineffective air raids on Gibraltar but Baudouin noted that "the attack on our fleet is one thing, war is another". As sceptics had warned, there were also complications with the French empire; when French colonial forces defeated de Gaulle's Free French Forces at the Battle of Dakar in September 1940, recruitment for the Free French movement plummeted and Germany responded by permitting Vichy France to maintain its remaining ships armed, rather than demobilised.[31][32]

Gibraltarian civilians

In early June 1940, about 13,500 civilians had been evacuated from Gibraltar to Casablanca in French Morocco. Following the capitulation of the French to the Germans and the attack on Mers-el-Kébir, the Vichy government found their presence an embarrassment. Later in June, 15 British cargo vessels arrived in Casablanca under Commodore Crichton, repatriating 15,000 French servicemen who had been rescued from Dunkirk. Once the French troops had disembarked, the ships were interned until the Commodore agreed to take away the evacuees, who, reflecting tensions generated after the attack on Mers-el-Kébir, were escorted to the ships at bayonet point minus many of their possessions.[33]

Case Anton

On 19 November 1942, the Germans began an attempt to capture the French fleet based at Toulon—in violation of the armistice terms—as part of Case Anton, the military occupation of Vichy France by Germany. All ships of any military value were scuttled by the French before the arrival of German troops, notably Dunkerque, Strasbourg and seven (four heavy and three light) modern cruisers. For many in the French Navy this was a final proof that there had never been a question of their ships ending up in German hands and that the British action at Mers-el-Kébir had been an unnecessary betrayal.[15] Darlan was true to his promise in 1940, that French ships would not be allowed to fall into German hands. Godfroy, still in command of the French ships neutralised at Alexandria, remained aloof for a while longer but on 17 May 1943 joined the Allies.[34]

Orders of battle

Royal Navy

French Navy (Marine Nationale)

See also


  1. ^ It is impossible for us, your comrades up to now, to allow your fine ships to fall into the power of the German 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 Kebir and Oran shall act in accordance with one of the following alternatives; (a) Sail with us and continue the fight until victory against the Germans. (b) Sail with reduced crews under our control to a British port. The reduced crews would be repatriated at the earliest moment. If 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. (c) Alternatively, if you feel bound to stipulate that your ships should not be used against the Germans lest they break the Armistice, then sail them with us with reduced crews to some French port in the West IndiesMartinique 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. If you refuse these fair offers, I must with profound regret, require you to sink your ships within 6 hours. Finally, failing the above, I have orders from His Majesty's Government to use whatever force may be necessary to prevent your ships from falling into German or Italian hands.


  1. ^ Playfair 1959, p. 137.
  2. ^ Thomas 1997, pp. 643–670.
  3. ^ Butler 1971, p. 218.
  4. ^ Greene & Massignani 2002, p. 57.
  5. ^ Lacouture 1991, pp. 246–247.
  6. ^ Hansard, War Situation, 25 June 1940, 304–05
  7. ^ Greene & Massignani 2002, p. 56.
  8. ^ a b c d Lacouture 1991, p. 247.
  9. ^ Bell 1997, pp. 19–20.
  10. ^ Butler 1971, p. 222.
  11. ^ Roskill 1957, pp. 240, 242.
  12. ^ Smith 2010, p. 48.
  13. ^ Smith 2010, pp. 47–56, 93.
  14. ^ Butler 1971, pp. 224–225.
  15. ^ a b c Greene & Massignani 2002, p. 61.
  16. ^ Brown 2004, p. 198.
  17. ^ Greene & Massignani 2002, pp. 58–59.
  18. ^ Greene & Massignani 2002, pp. 59–60.
  19. ^ Greene & Massignani 2002, pp. 60–61.
  20. ^ a b Playfair 1959, p. 142.
  21. ^ Greene & Massignani 2002, pp. 94–95.
  22. ^ Lacouture 1991, p. 246.
  23. ^ Smith 2010, pp. 86, 88.
  24. ^ Playfair 1959, pp. 140–141.
  25. ^ Auphan & Mordal 1976, pp. 124–126.
  26. ^ Butler 1971, p. 230.
  27. ^ Smith 2010, p. 92.
  28. ^ Lacouture 1991, p. 249.
  29. ^ Smith 2010, p. 404.
  30. ^ O'Hara 2009, p. 19.
  31. ^ Playfair 1959, pp. 142–143.
  32. ^ Smith 2010, p. 99.
  33. ^ Bond 2003, p. 98.
  34. ^ Roskill 1962, pp. 338, 444.



  • Auphan, Gabriel; Mordal, Jacques (1976). The French Navy in World War II. London: Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-0-8371-8660-3.
  • Bell, P. M. H. Bell (1997). France and Britain, 1940–1994: The Long Separation. France and Britain. London: Longman. ISBN 978-0-582-28920-8.
  • Bond, Peter (2003). 300 Years of British Gibraltar: 1704–2004. Gibraltar: Peter-Tan Ltd for Government of Gibraltar. OCLC 1005205264.
  • Brown, D. (2004). The Road to Oran: Anglo-French Naval Relations, September 1939 – July 1940. Cass: Naval Policy and History No. 20. London: Taylor and Francis. ISBN 978-0-7146-5461-4.
  • Butler, J. R. M. (1971) [1957]. Grand Strategy: September 1939 – June 1941. History of the Second World War United Kingdom Military Series. II (2nd ed.). HMSO. ISBN 978-0-11-630095-9.
  • Greene, J.; Massignani, A. (2002) [1998]. The Naval War in the Mediterranean 1940–1943 (pbk. ed.). Rochester: Chatham. ISBN 978-1-86176-190-3.
  • Lacouture, Jean (1991) [1984]. De Gaulle: The Rebel 1890–1944 (English trans. ed.). London: W. W. Norton. ISBN 978-0-393-02699-3.
  • O'Hara, Vincent P. (2009). Struggle for the Middle Sea: The Great Navies at War in the Mediterranean Theater, 1940–1945. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-59114-648-3.
  • Playfair, Major-General I. S. O.; et al. (1959) [1954]. Butler, J. R. M., ed. The Mediterranean and Middle East: The Early Successes Against Italy (to May 1941). History of the Second World War, United Kingdom Military Series. I (3rd impr. ed.). HMSO. OCLC 494123451. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  • Roskill, S. W. (1957) [1954]. Butler, J. R. M., ed. The War at Sea 1939–1945: The Defensive. History of the Second World War United Kingdom Military Series. I (4th impr. ed.). London: HMSO. OCLC 881709135. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  • Roskill, S. W. (1962) [1956]. The Period of Balance. History of the Second World War: The War at Sea 1939–1945. II (3rd impression ed.). London: HMSO. OCLC 174453986. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  • Smith, C. (2010) [2009]. England's Last War Against France: Fighting Vichy 1940–1942 (Phoenix ed.). London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 978-0-7538-2705-5.


  • Thomas, Martin (1997). "After Mers-el-Kébir: The Armed Neutrality of the Vichy French Navy, 1940–43". English Historical Review. 112 (447). ISSN 0013-8266.

Further reading

  • Collier, Paul (2003). The Second World War: The Mediterranean 1940–1945. IV. Oxford: Osprey. ISBN 978-1-84176-539-6.
  • Ehrengardt, Christian-Jacques Ehrengardt; Shores, Christopher J. (1985). L'aviation de Vichy au combat: les campagnes oubliées 3 juillet 1940 – 27 novembre 1942 [The Vichy Air Force in Combat: The Forgotten Campaigns]. Grandes batailles de France. I. Paris: C. Lavauzelle. ISBN 978-2-7025-0092-7.
  • Jenkins, E. H. (1979). A History of the French Navy: From its Beginnings to the Present Day. London: Macdonald and Jane's. ISBN 978-0-356-04196-4.
  • Lasterle, Philippe (2003). "Could Admiral Gensoul Have Averted the Tragedy of Mers el-Kebir?". Journal of Military History. 67 (3): 835–844. ISSN 0899-3718.
  • Paxton, R. O. (1972). Vichy France: Old Guard and New Order, 1940–1944. New York: Knopf. ISBN 978-0-394-47360-4.

External links

818 Naval Air Squadron

818 Naval Air Squadron was a Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm carrier based squadron formed in August 1939. It served on a number of the Navy's aircraft carriers during the Second World War, serving in most of the theatres of the war, before decommissioning at the end of the war.

Bretagne-class battleship

The Bretagne-class battleships were the first "super-dreadnoughts" built for the French Navy during the First World War. The class comprised three vessels: Bretagne, the lead ship, Provence, and Lorraine. They were an improvement of the previous Courbet class, and mounted ten 340 mm (13.4 in) guns instead of twelve 305 mm (12 in) guns as on the Courbets. A fourth was ordered by the Greek Navy, though work was suspended due to the outbreak of the war. The three completed ships were named after French provinces.

The three ships saw limited service during World War I, and were primarily occupied with containing the Austro-Hungarian Navy in the Adriatic Sea. After the war, they conducted training cruises in the Mediterranean and participated in non-intervention patrols off Spain during the Spanish Civil War. After the outbreak of World War II, the ships were tasked with convoy duties and anti-commerce raider patrols until the fall of France in June 1940. Bretagne and Provence were sunk by the British Royal Navy during the Attack on Mers-el-Kébir the following month; Provence was later raised and towed to Toulon, where she was again scuttled in November 1942. Lorraine was disarmed by the British in Alexandria and recommissioned in 1942 to serve with the Free French Naval Forces. She provided gunfire support during Operation Dragoon, the invasion of southern France, and shelled German fortresses in northern France. She survived as a gunnery training ship and a floating barracks until the early 1950s, before being broken up for scrap in 1954. Bretagne and Provence were scrapped in 1952 and 1949, respectively.

Cedric Holland

Cedric Swinton Holland CB (13 October 1889 – 11 May 1950) was an officer of the Royal Navy who saw service during the First and Second World Wars, rising to the rank of vice-admiral.

Holland was born the son of an admiral, and he followed his father into the navy, rising through the ranks and serving on a number of ships. He was serving at the rank of lieutenant on a cruiser at the start of the First World War. He saw out the war aboard battleships in home water and the Mediterranean, punctuated with time ashore, and with a special interest in signalling and naval communications. He was promoted to lieutenant-commander after the war, and was in the Mediterranean during the Turkish War of Independence. He graduated to his own commands shortly after, commanding a cruiser on the China Station, then a destroyer in the Mediterranean. He became a naval attaché in Paris shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, and remained in the position until April 1940.

Recalled to Britain at the fall of France, Holland assumed command of the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, which he commanded during several actions and operations. He was prominent in the negotiations in the run up to the Attack on Mers-el-Kébir in July 1940, when the French fleet refused to agree to terms to either surrender or disarm to keep their fleet out of German hands. Holland left Ark Royal in 1941 to become chief of staff to Lord Gort, and later director of naval communications at the Admiralty. He spent the last years of the war as principal administrative officer with the Eastern Fleet, having been promoted to rear-admiral and then vice-admiral. His distinguished service brought him a number of accolades; he was twice Mentioned in Despatches, was appointed a Commander of the Legion of Merit, a Knight of the Order of the Crown of Italy and a Companion of the Bath. Holland retired from naval service in 1946, and died in 1950.

Copenhagenization (naval)

Copenhagenization refers to the practice of confiscating the warships of a defeated enemy. It first occurred when the British fleet under Admiral Gambier landed Army units equipped with phosphorus loaded Congreve rockets for the Second Battle of Copenhagen in 1807.

After the British Navy stole a part of the Dano-Norwegian Navy (merchant ships as well as Men of wars, which at the time was located in Eastern Zealand), the practice of confiscating all (or most) of the ships of a defeated enemy became more common and would be expressed by the term Copenhagenize. In 1830, the American author Richard Emmons published an Epic poem on the late war of 1812, The Fredoniad, or Independence preserved in which he wrote of the merits and risks of independence:

Aw'd by the naval sceptre of the king—

Our fleet would Copenhagenize each town,

And with the torch burn every hamlet down.

The term would later be used by Justin Winsor in his Narrative and critical history of America (1888) where he described the outfitting of independent vessels to warfare being done somewhat covertly, in order to avoid the vessels being "Copenhagenized at once by the invincible British Navy" at the outbreak of hostilities. Also, in the 1881 Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States, John J. Lalor, editor, wrote:

But, even when the [embargo] was repealed in 1809, the belief that Great Britain would "Copenhagenize" any American navy which might be formed was sufficient to deter the democratic leaders from anything bolder than non-intercourse laws, until the idea of invading Canada took root and blossomed into a declaration of war.

In 1940, after the Fall of France, the British destroyed the warships of neutral Vichy stationed in the ports of Oran and Dakar with the attack on Mers-el-Kébir, fearing that the French ships would fall into German hands.

E and F-class destroyer

The E and F-class destroyers were a group of 18 destroyers built for the Royal Navy during the 1930s. The ships were initially assigned to the Home Fleet, although they reinforced the Mediterranean Fleet during the Italian invasion of Abyssinia of 1935–36 and enforced the Non-Intervention Agreement during the Spanish Civil War of 1936–39. After the beginning of the Second World War in August 1939, the E-class ships were mostly assigned to escort duties under the Western Approaches Command, while the Fs were assigned to escort the ships of the Home Fleet. Between them they sank four German submarines through March 1940 while losing only one ship to a submarine.

Most of the sisters were committed to the Norwegian Campaign in April–June where they helped to sink one German destroyer and a submarine. The two E-class minelayer-destroyers helped to evacuate Allied troops from Dunkirk in May–June. Most of the Fs were sent to Gibraltar around the end of June and formed part of Force H where they participated in the attack on Mers-el-Kébir. Two months later they participated in the Battle of Dakar where they sank three Vichy French submarines. During the rest of 1940, they sank one Italian submarine while losing two ships to mines and torpedoes. Force H covered a number of convoys to Malta in 1941, during which they sank one German submarine and lost one destroyer to bombs. Three E-class ships began escorting convoys to Russia in late 1941 and three others were transferred to the Eastern Fleet.

Two of these latter were sunk by Japanese forces in early 1942 and two Fs were transferred to replace them. Many of the Fs reinforced the Arctic convoy escorts during which they fought several engagements with German destroyers and sank one German submarine. Several were detached to escort Malta convoys, during which one ship was lost. Several ships were converted to escort destroyers in late 1942–early 1943 for duty in the North Atlantic and many others were assigned there for extended periods of time where they sank two German submarines. Three of these ships were later transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy. Four of the Es and Fs were sent to the Mediterranean Fleet in mid-1943 to support the invasion of Sicily and remained there into 1944. One of these was transferred to the Royal Hellenic Navy that same year and remained in Greek service until 1956. The ships that remained in the Atlantic sank two German submarines in 1944 before they were recalled to the UK in May to prepare for the invasion of Normandy. There they sank two submarines, although another F-class ship was lost to a mine. The ships mostly returned to the North Atlantic after Overlord or began long refits in Canada.

The three Canadian ships were used to transport troops back to Canada after the end of the war before being broken up in 1947. Most of the British ships were broken up around the same time, although one ship was sold to the Dominican Navy in 1949 and served until 1968.

English Attack

English Attack can refer to:

Sicilian Defence, Najdorf Variation

Sicilian Defence, Scheveningen Variation

Battle of Quebec (1690)

Attack on Mers-el-Kébir

Sicilian Defence

Force H

Force H was a British naval formation during the Second World War. It was formed in 1940, to replace French naval power in the western Mediterranean removed by the French armistice with Nazi Germany. The force occupied an odd place within the naval chain of command. Normal British practice was to have naval stations and fleets around the world, whose commanders reported to the First Sea Lord via a flag officer. Force H was based at Gibraltar but there was already a flag officer at the base, Flag Officer Commanding, North Atlantic. The commanding officer of Force H did not report to the Flag Officer but direct to the First Sea Lord, Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound.

Force de Raid

The Force de Raid (Raiding Force) was a French naval squadron formed at Brest during naval mobilization for World War II. The squadron commanded by Vice Amiral Marcel Gensoul consisted of the most modern French capital ships Dunkerque and Strasbourg, screened by the three newest French cruisers, the eight largest and most modern contre-torpilleurs, and the only French aircraft carrier. The Force effectively ceased to exist as a separate unit after the British attack on Mers-el-Kébir.

French cruiser Algérie

Algérie was a French heavy cruiser that served during the early years of World War II. She was built in response to the Italian Zara-class cruisers incorporating better armour than previous French cruisers. One of the last of the so-called "Treaty Cruisers," she was considered one of the best designs commissioned by any of the naval powers.

French destroyer Mogador

Mogador was the lead ship of the French Navy's Mogador class of destroyers (French: contre-torpilleur). Named for the Moroccan town, she was built before the outbreak of World War II. The ship was heavily damaged during the British attack on Mers-el-Kébir on 3 July 1940, but was later repaired and sailed to Toulon. She was scuttled in Toulon Harbor when the Germans tried to seize her, along with the rest of the fleet, on 27 November 1942.

The Mogador and her sister Volta were the last contre-torpilleurs built by the French Navy, a not entirely successful attempt to build a ship capable of out-fighting every other ship below her tonnage. "In technological terms Mogador and Volta were ships with the armament of a light cruiser in the hull of destroyer; the contre-torpilleur as a type had been pushed past the limits of its capabilities."

HMS Escort (H66)

HMS Escort was an E-class destroyer built for the Royal Navy in the early 1930s. Although assigned to the Home Fleet upon completion, the ship was attached to the Mediterranean Fleet in 1935–36, during the Abyssinia Crisis. During the Spanish Civil War of 1936–1939, she spent considerable time in Spanish waters, enforcing the arms blockade imposed by Britain and France on both sides of the conflict. Escort was assigned to convoy escort and anti-submarine patrol duties in the Western Approaches, when World War II began in September 1939. During the Norwegian Campaign, the ship escorted ships of the Home Fleet, although she did tow her sister HMS Eclipse after the latter ship had been badly damaged by German air attack. Escort was assigned to Force H in late June, and participated in the Attack on Mers-el-Kébir in early July. She was torpedoed a few days later, by an Italian submarine, but was towed for three days towards Gibraltar before she foundered.

HMS Foresight (H68)

HMS Foresight was one of nine F-class destroyers built for the Royal Navy during the 1930s. She was assigned to the Home Fleet upon completion. Unlike her sister ships, she does not appear to have been attached to the Mediterranean Fleet in 1935–36 during the Abyssinia Crisis, nor did she enforce the arms blockade imposed by Britain and France on both sides of the conflict the Spanish Civil War of 1936–1939. The ship escorted the larger ships of the fleet during the early stages of World War II and played a minor role in the Norwegian Campaign of 1940. Foresight was sent to Gibraltar in mid-1940 and formed part of Force H where she participated in the attack on Mers-el-Kébir and the Battle of Dakar. The ship escorted numerous convoys to Malta in 1941 and Arctic convoys during 1942. Later that year, Foresight participated in Operation Pedestal, another convoy to Malta. She was torpedoed by an Italian aircraft on 12 August and had to be scuttled the next day.

HMS Foxhound (H69)

HMS Foxhound was one of nine F-class destroyers built for the Royal Navy in the mid-1930s. Although she was assigned to the Home Fleet, the ship was detached as part of the Mediterranean Fleet to enforce the arms blockade imposed by Britain and France on both sides during the Spanish Civil War of 1936–39. Several weeks after the start of the Second World War in September 1939, Foxhound helped to sink a German submarine and participated in the Second Battle of Narvik during the Norwegian Campaign of April–June 1940. The ship was sent to Gibraltar in mid-1940 and formed part of Force H where she participated in the attack on Mers-el-Kébir. Foxhound escorted the aircraft carriers of Force H as they flew off aircraft for Malta and covered convoys resupplying and reinforcing the island until late 1941. During this time the ship helped to sink another German submarine.

In December, she was briefly transferred to the Mediterranean Fleet where she escorted several convoys to Malta from the Eastern Mediterranean. Foxhound was transferred to the Eastern Fleet in early 1942 and was then assigned to convoy escort duties off South Africa and then in West Africa until mid-1943 when she was converted into an escort destroyer. When the conversion was completed in early 1944, the ship was transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy and renamed HMCS Qu'Appelle. She was assigned escort duties in the Western Approaches for several months before the ship was transferred to the English Channel to protect convoys during the Normandy landings. Qu'Appelle engaged German surface ships several times before she was sent to Iceland for more convoy escort work in October. The ship received a lengthy refit in Canada at the end of the year that was not completed until mid-1945. Qu'Appelle then ferried Canadian troops back to Canada for several months before she became a training ship. She was placed in reserve in mid-1946 and was sold for scrap at the end of 1947.

HMS Fury (H76)

HMS Fury was an F-class destroyer built for the Royal Navy in the 1930s. Although assigned to the Home Fleet upon completion, the ship was attached to the Mediterranean Fleet in 1935–36 during the Abyssinia Crisis. During the Spanish Civil War of 1936–1939, she spent time in Spanish waters, enforcing the arms blockade imposed by Britain and France on both sides of the conflict. The ship escorted the larger ships of the fleet during the early stages of World War II and played a minor role in the Norwegian Campaign of 1940. Fury was sent to Gibraltar in mid-1940 and formed part of Force H where she participated in the attack on Mers-el-Kébir and the Battle of Dakar. The ship escorted numerous convoys to Malta in 1940–41 and Arctic convoys during 1942.

Fury was briefly transferred to the Mediterranean in August 1942 to participate in Operation Pedestal but returned to the Home Fleet immediately afterwards to resume her role screening convoys to Russia. She continued in this role until March 1943 when she began escorting convoys in the North Atlantic for several months. The ship was transferred to the Mediterranean Fleet a few months later as the Allies began making landings in Italian territory in mid-1943. Later in the year, she participated in the Dodecanese Campaign in the Aegean where she helped to sink a German troop convoy. Fury returned to the Home Fleet in mid-1944 in preparation for Operation Neptune, the Allied invasion of France. The ship provided naval gunfire support during the landings until she struck a mine during a storm on 21 June and was then blown ashore. She was deemed uneconomical to repair and scrapping began in September.

Irvine Glennie

Admiral Sir Irvine Gordon Glennie KCB (22 July 1892 – 8 September 1980) was a Royal Navy officer who went on to be Commander-in-Chief, America and West Indies Station.

Mogador-class destroyer

The Mogador-class large destroyers (contre-torpilleurs) of the French Navy were laid down in 1935 and commissioned in 1939. They were extremely fast, very large destroyers intended to act as scouts for the two fast Dunkerque-class battleships. The design evolved from the extremely fast Le Fantasque class, being 300 tons heavier and carrying eight guns in semi-enclosed twin turrets rather than five guns in single open mounts. With their eight 138 mm (5.4 in) guns they approached a light cruiser in firepower.

Both Mogador and her sister Volta were present during the British attack on Mers-el-Kébir on 3 July 1940, but only Volta managed to escape to Toulon. Mogador was struck by a 15-inch (38 cm) shell in the rear hull that detonated her ready depth charges despite not actually detonating itself. This destroyed most of her stern above water, but she remained afloat and was repaired enough to be sent to Toulon on 1 November 1940 for reconstruction. Both ships were scuttled in Toulon Harbour when the Germans tried to seize them on 27 November 1942.

Operation Terminal

Operation Terminal was an Allied operation during World War II. Part of Operation Torch (the Allied invasion of French North Africa, 8 November 1942) it involved a direct landing of infantry into the Vichy French port of Algiers with the intention of capturing the port facilities before they could be destroyed.

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