Operation Catapult: Britain's only option or a bloody betrayal?

Jan 2015
3,363
Front Lines of the Pig War
I have to remind you that this was 1930'ies in middle of Great Depression and re armamet would be extremely costly for UK (which already had a huge burden to maintain Royal Navy which had been first defence of British home islands and Empire) and there was no real conscript army culture in UK. Last one (Kitchner's new army) was not remembered with fond memories due to Battles of Somme and Passchandalle during World War I.
Correct.
By the time of the battle of France, Britain is building more capital ships than all 3 Axis powers combined.
 
Jan 2015
3,363
Front Lines of the Pig War
And in the process France was left high and dry by the UK, in favour of Germany
Quite.

Except if the UK had wanted a France adopting a more... "pro-active", less defensive stance, the time to support France in that direction would have been already in the 1920's. And the opposite was done however.

And that is also exclusively a perspective possible to take only in hindsight. Like almost everything brought up in this thread.

The whole thread reminds med of the old observation that: "Victory has many fathers – defeat is always an orphan".
I believe that the UK expected France to assume the Lion's share of the responsibility for her own defence, with the British Empire planning to contribute perhaps 15% to 20% of the total for the Western Front, but France bearing the bulk (likely aided by Belgium )
However the responsibility for the majority of the naval war would be borne by Britain.

The fact that France had spent enormous sums on the Maginot defences while Britain was expending enormous sums on ships, and planning to have 20 battleships and 10 fleet carriers by 1942 shows the vastly different building priorities for each nation.
 
Feb 2019
345
California
The French didn't tell them that, Darlan did, a man who coukd be replaced at any time.



No, the retreat was began after the debacle in the Ardennes, when the French center disintegrated, allowing the northern forces & the BEF to be cut off.

AS for "didnt consult with your ally", there is no French record of what was discussed with Gen. Billotte, as he was kilked during the battle.

Your first point is a good one, milord--and one I must say had not occurred to me before.
 

deaf tuner

Ad Honoris
Oct 2013
14,533
Europix
The French didn't tell them that, Darlan did, a man who coukd be replaced at any time.
I know it's aftermath, but honestly, I'm still unconvinced. If I try to ignore what we know now and keep in mind what we knew then.

The French fleet was "outside" occupied France. Moreover, ships that would had been in the occupied zone left the ports (Jean Bart, for example, tho unfinished, left St Nazaire).

Politically, it remains to me a doubtful movement.

Pride and honour is stupid maybe, but it exists. The way "negotiations" at Mers El Kebir were done left little doubt on the reaction of a French Admiral (any other nation, in fact): "Ultimatums from an ally? Rather sink!"

I'm sure that if You revert the rolls, You'll find practically all British Admirals reacting the same way. It's not for nothing more than one superior British navy stuff expressed concerns and doubts on the operation.

In Alexandria, Cunningham took a different approach, took the time too, and it ended differently.

There's also the ships in UK proper: how real was the risk to see them passing into German hands?

Again, I more then understand the British concern on the "Royale". But I still have problems with the decision made, especially with the manner the decision was to be applied.
 
Last edited:
Jan 2015
3,363
Front Lines of the Pig War
I know it's aftermath, but honestly, I'm still unconvinced. If I try to ignore what we know now and keep in mind what we knew then.

The French fleet was "outside" occupied France. Moreover, ships that would had been in the occupied zone left the ports (Jean Bart, for example, tho unfinished, left At Nazaire).

Politically, it remains to me a doubtful movement.

Pride and honour is stupid maybe, but it exists. The way "negotiations" at Mers El Kebir were done left little doubt on the reaction of an Admiral: "Ultimatums from an ally? No!"

In Alexandria, Cunningham took a different approach, took the time too, and it ended differently.

There's also the ships in UK proper: how real was the risk to see them passing into German hands?

Again, I more then understand the British concern on the "Royale". But I still have problems with the decision made, especially on the manner the decision was to be applied.
I know it's aftermath, but honestly, I'm still unconvinced. If I try to ignore what we know now and keep in mind what we knew then.

The French fleet was "outside" occupied France. Moreover, ships that would had been in the occupied zone left the ports (Jean Bart, for example, tho unfinished, left At Nazaire).

Politically, it remains to me a doubtful movement.

Pride and honour is stupid maybe, but it exists. The way "negotiations" at Mers El Kebir were done left little doubt on the reaction of an Admiral: "Ultimatums from an ally? No!"

In Alexandria, Cunningham took a different approach, took the time too, and it ended differently.

There's also the ships in UK proper: how real was the risk to see them passing into German hands?

Again, I more then understand the British concern on the "Royale". But I still have problems with the decision made, especially on the manner the decision was to be applied.
There seems to be some reluctance to fault the French for their choice to unilaterally break their commitment to seek a separate peace, without discussing the ramifications with the British.
I do agree that there were mistakes made by the British in how it was handled.
It's been noted by some that Petain had some antipathy to the British which didn't help.

The proper and honourable thing (IMO) would have been for France to inform the British that they could no longer abide by the agreements made, and for both sides to work out an acceptable compromise - relocating the ships to Martinique seems like a good option.
 

deaf tuner

Ad Honoris
Oct 2013
14,533
Europix
There seems to be some reluctance to fault the French for their choice to unilaterally break their commitment to seek a separate peace, without discussing the ramifications with the British.
Actually, no.

Generally speaking (there are exceptions, ofcourse) French (from historians to commoners) endorse the fault, the responsibility in the Fall of France for quite some time now.

As for ramifications ... let's be honest: the passage from "we fight up to the last" to "let's armistice" lasted two days with meetings in lost holes in French countryside. Do You really expect deep, long discussions on ramifications?

Tho there was one point that was discussed from the beginning: la Royale. It would not be let into German hands. And Darlan, as minister of Vichy Governement (!) repeated it, asked British Government to treat the Royale as neutral. Request that was denied.

The proper and honourable thing (IMO) would have been for France to inform the British that they could no longer abide by the agreements made,
They did. And Churchill and other British high representatives were present personally at the meetings were the information was communicated.
 
Jan 2015
3,363
Front Lines of the Pig War
Actually, no.

Generally speaking (there are exceptions, ofcourse) French (from historians to commoners) endorse the fault, the responsibility in the Fall of France for quite some time now.

As for ramifications ... let's be honest: the passage from "we fight up to the last" to "let's armistice" lasted two days with meetings in lost holes in French countryside. Do You really expect deep, long discussions on ramifications?

Tho there was one point that was discussed from the beginning: la Royale. It would not be let into German hands. And Darlan, as minister of Vichy Governement (!) repeated it, asked British Government to treat the Royale as neutral. Request that was denied.
.
The issue I believe is that Darlan served at the command of the French Government, and the British did not trust Petain and Laval
 

deaf tuner

Ad Honoris
Oct 2013
14,533
Europix
The issue I believe is that Darlan served at the command of the French Government, and the British did not trust Petain and Laval
My dear Lord, I propose You to change for a moment radically the situation.

Imagine UK with it's army vanished, with the attacker at London's gates, having to choose between a (maybe) total massacre, disparition of the country and an armistice that spares lives, leaving the empire untouched and a faint control of the State. Plus, You manage to obtain (!) keeping the control of Your entire fleet, one of the best in the world, already secured, out of the reach of Your enemy.

Your British oppinion is what I need here: will You later give Your fleet to Your enemy? Will You let him take control over it, over Your last ace You have, that You managed to keep ?

Let me believe any British answer will be "Over my dead body. I'll never give up my only asset than can put me back on feet!"

Why do You think French reasoned differently ?

It's that that I do not entirely understand. It's impossible to me that Churchill didn't knew that. It's too obvious.