Unlike in metropolitan France, the French Colonial Troops in West Africa were not reduced after the 1940 armistice and the region was little interfered with by the Axis powers, providing a valuable addition to the forces of Free France after it had been liberated. Before this happened, there was some tension between the French and the neighbouring British colonies, particularly Sierra Leone, leading to the formation of the Freetown Defence Flight in June 1941, but no military incidents took place.
Map of French West Africa on the eve of war (1936)
On 18 September, three French light cruisers, the Georges Leygues, the Gloire, and the Montcalm were intercepted by Allied ships en route to Libreville. The intercepting Allied ships included the heavy cruiser HMAS Australia. The three French light cruisers were forced to retreat.
Vichy resistance stiffened as a result of the attacks on the French ships. The Battle of Dakar (23 September to 25 September 1940) took place after Allied forces failed to persuade the Vichy French defenders of Dakar to allow them to peacefully enter the city. The Allied forces first tried to persuade the Vichy forces by means of propaganda. They then attempted to take Dakar by force of arms. Both attempts ended in defeat. Allied hopes of taking over French West Africa were dashed for the time being, leading to the less developed and economically important French Equatorial Africa to be the main Free French territory in the immediate aftermath of the Armistice.
The Commanders of World War II were for the most part career officers. They were forced to adapt to new technologies and forged the direction of modern warfare. Some political leaders, particularly those of the principal dictatorships involved in the conflict, Adolf Hitler (Germany), Benito Mussolini (Italy) and Emperor Hirohito (Japan), acted as supreme military commanders as well as dictators for their respective countries or empires.
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