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France's obligation as a Ally to Britain, 1940

Discussion in 'Western Europe 1939 - 1942' started by TiredOldSoldier, Mar 15, 2014.

  1. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    I would call most of the attacks on the Vichy French "useless" . The contribution the French colonies to the axis war effort was basically nill. Once they started killing Frenchmen at Mers El Kebir the British were locked in a mindset that forced them to continue doing so on the assumption the Vichy could join forces with Hitler.
     
  2. merdiolu

    merdiolu Member

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    On the contrary Mers El Kebir was a huge diplomatic decleration from Churchill that Britain would fight to the end including US which was neutral , heavily isolonist and not sure about Britain's chances of survival just like rest of the world in June 1940. Moreover once France made a seperate peace and took its own priorties at heart before Anglo French alliance then it was fair game. I know it did not seem possible now in perspective what happened in Toulon later in 1942 but fate of French Navy was a huge question mark and constant source of worry for British goverment. It was assumed that Axis would be fool not to demand any French vessels as armistace payment (or could pressure for that later ) and British superiorty at sea was one of the only aces they all left. Churchill understandly couldnt leave that to chance and let all these vessels at easy reach of Axis. Mussolini himself demanded French Navy to be given to Italy as repedition in 1940 only stopped by Ribbentrop who did not wish to alianete French more.

    All other expeditions to Vichy France became necessity after that. Vichy goverment became an Axis co belligrent , gave huge support to Anti-British Iraq Rebellion from Syria (that was unacceptable to British interrests in Middle East , security of Suez and oil fields in Iraq and Basra ) that was why Syria and Lebenon was invaded by British in 1941. Same with Madagascar which was at a strategic position in East Africa , opening to Indian Ocean and threatening to sea lanes to India and Cape Hope. And Operation Torch against Vich French held Northwest Africa was about to secure entire Mediterranean Theater. All these territories captured were given to Free French control in Allied side which gave them legitimacy in both French public and international stance while Vichy's was melted away. If you are running a global war sometimes you need to secure strategic locations around the globe and put up logistical bases before trying anything else.
     
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  3. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Is this not the very essence of a unnecessary battle? As you correctly point out no matter what Vichy France did not allow anything larger than a Destroyer to fall into Axis hands, those being damaged as best they could and a non factor in Italian (and Later German) hands. This also ignores the mitigating factors involved. Did France take a self serving course by a separate peace? Perhaps, but didn't Briton do so as well by retaining Fighters in the UK before the fall of Paris?

    France's "co-belligerence" was not a matter political desire, but a acknowledgement of Force Majure and the aid given in Trans-Jordan was on balance laughable as far as any real threat to the UK in the region (allowing a handful of planes to refuel so that they could deliver small arms to a rather pathetic group of Islamic revolutionaries). Further Vichy could have declared war for any of Britain's act's but did not, did they.

    This also ignores certain other facts as well. Enigma could provide some measure of forewarning of a impending movement of these ships into Axis service, as could the Resistance in France since they would likely sail to Toulon prior to any operation to resupply and refurbish. Nor would it be terribly difficult to keep on station a pair of submarines to both watch and report/attack any movement made. Then there was Force H close enough to intervene much of the time. No single element offered infallible protection, but collectively the actual risk was limited and risk is the nature of war. Privately this might have please FDR, but officially this was seen as a attack upon a US recognized legitimate government and ensured that unlike other Vichy military assets that joined the Anglo-Americans after Torch, these would be lost forever.
     
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  4. merdiolu

    merdiolu Member

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    As I said we are looking from a hindsight here. Leaving French fleet would mean there had to be a constant patrolling , blockade duty off Northwest Africa and Syria Levant coast as well as Toulon. Royal Navy resources would be needed elsewhere especiall invasion of Britain spectre was looming in 1940 summer. In that regard strategically it would be better either absorb or to eliminate these vessels while they were defenceless (by the way in Mers El Kebir Admiral James Sommerville gave French a direct ultimatum expiring in five hours about either joining to Allied cause , going to a neutral port , going to French held Caribbean scuttling or certain destruction. French refused them all in Mers El Kebir) British resources were streched thin in 1940 they couldn't afford to lose superiorty in sea and there always be possibility that pro fascist Admiral Darlan or weak Petain could turn over French capital vessels to Germans or Italians in exchance for say 100.000 French POWs in Germany. Italian pressure about French vessels becoming more serious (until Hitler dismissed them for all at Hendaye meeting in 1940 October ) Again in 1940 summer Britain's position seemed hopeless , Soviet Union was actually helping Germany with raw materials and it seemed like Germany might add French resources to crush Britain once and for all with all of its strength. Under those circumstances Churchill (I think in his Memoirs he compared his position with French revolutionary Danton who said "Kings united threatening us ? Let's throw them a King's Head back !") made a tough , ugly but necessary choice. In 1940 there was no organized French resistance , Petain was the absolute ruler and ULTRA could only read Luftwaffe and some Wehrmacht communiques on wireless. Vichy did not declare war to Britain of course due to US pressure. It still wished to be acknowledged internationally especially by neutral powers. In war of course you accept risks and protect the status quo favorable to you. Status Que in sea was favorable to British at that period and they had no intention of giving that up. As you said war required risks. British risked French declaration of war but they took the risk and it did not happen.

    Syria Lebenon Campaign was definitely necessary. Not only it secured Middle East position all the way to Turkish border at north (so British could have more leverage on neutral Turkey ) and Iraq frontier , in case of Egypt's fall to German Italian advance from Libya , Syria/Levant provided a larger fallback area along with Transjordan and Palastine. Plus security of Suez and Red Sea was in question here. Rashid Ali's Iraq rebellion was not islamic by the way it was more nationalist anti British and anti Semitic. That failed of course but who knew or could be assured that Germany would not try to stir already strong Anti British feeling in region again in future ? We now know of course that Hitler's main obsession was a gigantic land Crusade against Soviet Union. But in 1941 spring British could not be so sure about that despite their reliable intelligence suggesting otherwise. Relations between Hitler and Stalin was still cordial and mutually beneficial. Better to secure the area before reacting to another crisis with scarce resources. The moment Vichy allowed Syrian airbases to open to Axis they asked trouble. To know that and not to react would be weakness in wartime at best.
     
  5. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Thank you for the salute! I agree that on balance Churchill's decision was understandable at the moment it was made considering what was known or suspected at the time, but this is true in almost every occasion as leaders must act in the fog of war and the heat of the moment. It is with hindsight that one can conclude if anyone is listening to the better or lesser angels of their nature.

    Churchill could have trusted the French to keep their word, Darlan could have sailed to the Caribbean or a neutral port, but both took council of their fears instead.
     
  6. green slime

    green slime Member

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    In March 1940, the French and the British had agreed that neither country would seek a separate peace with Nazi Germany. The French cabinet on 15 June voted to ask Germany for the terms of an armistice. Reynaud, who wished to continue the war from North Africa, was forced to submit the proposal to Churchill's War Cabinet. He claimed that he would have to resign if the British were to reject the proposal.

    The British opposed a French surrender, and in particular the possible loss of the French Navy to the Germans, and so sought to keep Reynaud in office. On 14 June British diplomat Robert Vansittart and Morton wrote with Monnet and his deputy René Pleven a draft "Franco-British Union" proposal. They hoped that such a union would help Reynaud persuade his cabinet to continue the war from North Africa, but Churchill was sceptical when on 15 June the British War Cabinet discussed the proposal and a similar one from Secretary of State for India Leo Amery. On the morning of 16 June, the War Cabinet agreed to the French armistice request on the condition that the French fleet sail to British harbors. This disappointed Reynaud, who had hoped to use a British rejection to persuade his cabinet to continue to fight.

    Reynaud supporter Charles de Gaulle had arrived in London earlier that day, however, and Monnet told him about the proposed union. De Gaulle convinced Churchill that "some dramatic move was essential to give Reynaud the support which he needed to keep his Government in the war". The Frenchman then called Reynaud and told him that the British prime minister proposed a union between their countries, an idea which Reynaud immediately supported. De Gaulle, Monnet, Vansittart, and Pleven quickly agreed to a document proclaiming a joint citizenship, foreign trade, currency, war cabinet, and military command. Churchill withdrew the armistice approval, and at 3 p.m. the War Cabinet met again to consider the union document. Despite the radical nature of the proposal, Churchill and the ministers recognized the need for a dramatic act to encourage the French and reinforce Reynaud's support within his cabinet before it met again at 5pm.
    The final "DECLARATION OF UNION" approved by the British War Cabinet stated that:

    France and Great Britain shall no longer be two nations, but one Franco-British Union. The constitution of the Union will provide for joint organs of defence, foreign, financial and economic policies. Every citizen of France will enjoy immediately citizenship of Great Britain, every British subject will become a citizen of France.

    Churchill and De Gaulle called Reynaud to tell him about the document, and they arranged for a joint meeting of the two governments in Concarneau the next day. The declaration immediately succeeded in its goal of encouraging Reynaud, who saw the union as the only alternative to surrender and who could now cite the British rejection of the armistice.

    Other French leaders were less enthusiastic, however. At the 5 p.m. cabinet meeting, many called it a British "last minute plan" to steal its colonies, and said that "be[ing] a Nazi province" was preferable to becoming a British dominion. Philippe Pétain, a leader of the pro-armistice group, called union "fusion with a corpse". While President Albert Lebrun and some others were supportive, the cabinet's opposition stunned Reynaud. He resigned that evening without taking a formal vote on the union or an armistice, and later called the failure of the union the "greatest disappointment of my political career".

    -From Wikipedia

    Seriously, if the French Cabinet were going to trivialize the concern the Commonwealth had over the French Navy, didn't have a greater sense of trust for their (soon to be former) ally, preferring to be a Nazi province, and again in spite of all proposals to the contrary to save their fleet, elected to ignore the requests to sail for far away shores, it is hard to see what realistic alternatives were available to the British RN.

    No Government in European history has ever made such a far reaching plan for supranational integration. Before or since.






    BRITISH OFFER OF ANGLO-FRENCH UNION, JUNE 16, 1940

    [Great Britain, Parliament, Parliamentary Debates, Fifth Series, Volume 365. House of Commons Official Report Eleventh Volume of Session 1939-40, (London, His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1940), columns 701-702.]
    At this most fateful moment in the history of the modern world the Governments of the United Kingdom and the French Republic make this declaration of indissoluble union and unyielding resolution in their common defence of justice and freedom, against subjection to a system which reduces mankind to a life of robots and slaves.
    The two Governments declare that France and Great Britain shall no longer be two nations but one Franco-British Union. The constitution of the Union will provide for joint organs of defence, foreign, financial, and economic policies. Every citizen of France will enjoy immediately citizenship of Great Britain, every British subject will become a citizen of France.
    Both countries will share responsibility for the repair the devastation of war, wherever it occurs in their territories, and the resources of both shall be equally, and as one, applied to that purpose.
    During the war there shall be a single war Cabinet, and all the forces of Britain and France, whether on land, sea, or in the air, will be placed under its direction. It will govern from wherever it best can. The two Parliaments will be formally associated.
    The nations of the British Empire are already forming new armies. France will keep her available forces in the field, on the sea, and in the air.
    The Union appeals to the United States to fortify the economic resources of the Allies and to bring her powerful material aid to the common cause.
    The Union will concentrate its whole energy against the power of the enemy no matter where the battle may be. And thus we shall conquer

    From
    http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/policy/1940/400616a.html
     
  7. green slime

    green slime Member

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    The Ultimatum delivered, several hours prior to the Attack:

    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 unless they break the Armistice, then sail them with us with reduced crews to some French port in the West Indies — Martinique 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 the orders from His Majesty's Government to use whatever force may be necessary to prevent your ships from falling into German hands
     
  8. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    I split this off as it seemed to have a life of its own.
     
  9. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Churchill's Anglo-French Union concept was a dramatic flourish often found in his spur of the moment ideas, bold to the point of recklessness, long on promise and short on practical application. It was all well and good to say they would become one people united upon a single purpose, but with the realities on the ground, German troops everywhere in northern France and nothing left to prevent the fall, its practicable application was questionable.

    Consider America's insistence upon a early invasion of Europe, preferably 1943 (if not earlier), just how difficult would it be for the British half of the Union to hold back the Yanks and the French half of the combined War Cabinet? De Gualle could be ignored when necessary, but could Reynauld? What does Britain gain really?

    The French Fleet yes, but the cost of support and provisioning it in its entirety would be a considerable strain of the UK's war effort. France could fly some of its remaining air force to points outside Axis control, but keeping them air worthy would be harder than the French navy. French troops in North Africa, the Middle East, and other smaller colonies, but until America fully arms herself where will they get new equipment? Every little bit helps of course, but in real terms will it make all that much difference to getting back on the continent before 1944? Would it prompt Hitler to forgo his Russian adventure because the Anglo-French Union refuses to be reasonable and seek peace?
     
  10. green slime

    green slime Member

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    Nobody was thinking of 1944, or in terms of when to get back on the continent. The US wasn't yet involved, and there was no guarantee it ever would be. The Poles didn't stop fighting until they were stabbed in the back by the Soviets, and their situation became well beyond bleak. At stake was not just Metropolitan France, but Algeria, Syria and Tunisia, access to which would seriously hinder Italian efforts to get stroppy in the Med.

    But with members of their cabinet voicing their desire to be a Nazi province, it was probably for the better that they surrendered. Yep, because not enough Commonwealth lives had died on French soil defending France. It was all a nefarious plot to acquire French colonies. :bleah: :hypnodisk:

    It may well have been that the Russian adventure would've been postponed: this scenario would've played well into the hands of the Soviets. Ultimately though, Germany still faced the same economic problems (no foreign reserves except for that captured, lack of credibility), and enormous shortage of goods and materials needed (food, oil, metals), and these were not to be found in the MTO or the UK. Hitler wanted and needed cheaper access to raw materials that could only be provided by the East. Given Soviet intrusion into what had already been agreed as Germany's sphere of influence, the Eastern crusade couldn't be postponed for ever.
     
  11. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    The end result of the union may well be a German victory. Hitler will not attack the USSR until France falls and FDR will find it a lot more difficult to get support for intervention in favour of what amounts to a colonial empires block.
    With no Vichy Germany will be likely to send troops to NA to occupy Tunisia and Algeria, and support an Italian drive towards Suez, despite the addition of the French fleet that is likely to turn out pretty bad for the allies.
     
  12. green slime

    green slime Member

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    In 1940, Germany doesn't have sufficient transports, and Italy definitely doesn't have the resources to challenge both the French and RN Mediterranean fleets. They couldn't threaten the Suez historically. They're not going to capture Algeria, Tunisia, and threaten the Suez. How many more troops can Germany spare to occupy all these regions, as well as a hostile Southern France? We can't have the Germans omnipresent and omnipotent.
     
  13. Admiral_Humaid

    Admiral_Humaid New Member

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    The French and especially the Vichy French were very confused as to who to support. The British who just blew up there navy? Or the Axis who have conquered half of their territory. Perfect example of a painstaking situation where the Government is useless.
     
  14. TheBlackDeath

    TheBlackDeath New Member

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    Well how to say....The Germans really secured france and their useless plans to invade france were wrong.Operation Overlord was about to be destroyed as Op. Neptun almost failed because of force they launched on beaches (germans).France as a british ally sent French Solders (I think Gaulle's) In Vietnam to protect british colony forces.Japaneses defeated them and the France were almost useless......France helped the allies in Africa and in Operation Overlord (where Gaulle's forces fighted).But the mistake was the Market Garden.The real and the best Defence Strategy General,Model realised that the Parachutists will come.Even the bridge was very secured the allies problem wasnt the German forces....The parachutists were dropped everywhere most hanging dead over trees and most falling in water.Most even didnt make it to the land alive....More unprepared Red Devils were acctually arrested.Even the Market Garden Failed the Ardennes invasion over Somme River was acctualy a loss for Germans.Model commited suicide after he said ''Better die with my hands than getting in enemies claw''.France in 1940 secured Vietnam (lossing),and lauching a rule ''No communist propaganda'' plus after the surrender of France a Resistance has rised that acctualy was very helpful for Britan....
     
  15. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Could you be a bit more coherent?
     
  16. green slime

    green slime Member

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    It's difficult to comment on streams of consciousness. The ideas you are trying to express are not clear in the least.

    For example it's impossible to have "most hanging dead over trees and most falling in water", even if they were parachuting into a mangrove swamp.

    Take the time to carefully read what you've written before posting.

    Welcome to the forum, by the way.
     

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