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

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,225
Ok.

"Allies", "former allies" ... it still isn't an answer to my post.
i think an important distinction

I don't have much problem with the rest of it. The British action was ruthless, brutal and an act of war, against a now neutral country. But I don't think it was treacherous, as a surprise attack would have been.

I think Churchill did so for mainly political reasons, to convoy to both British and other neutral countries (mostly the US) that Britain were committed to the fight.
 

GogLais

Ad Honorem
Sep 2013
5,392
Wirral
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.
It might be that France was very unlikely to hand over her ships. Britain took the view that “very unlikely” wasn’t enough. Perfectly understandable, whether we like it or not.
 

Linschoten

Ad Honoris
Aug 2010
16,202
Welsh Marches
Interesting analogy, but the French didn't in fact regard their ships as being a 'last ace' that would protect them from being pressed further by the Nazis; and the British didn't regard the French fleet as being fully secured and out of reach of the Germans, that was why they wanted it to cross over at least to the French colonies in the Caribbean, which was one of the options that was offered.
 

deaf tuner

Ad Honoris
Oct 2013
14,410
Europix
Interesting analogy, but the French didn't in fact regard their ships as being a 'last ace' that would protect them from being pressed further by the Nazis and the British didn't regard the French fleet as being fully secured and out of reach of the Germans, that was why they wanted it to cross over at least to the French colonies in the Caribbean, which was one of the options that was offered.
Sorry, the French did everything to preserve their fleet out of the reach of Germans and anyone else.

And that is totally out of any doubt: they preferred to fight back British rather than put it under British control or sending it so far as to became useless to them.

The fleet that escaped the Catapult operation took refuge at Toulon. Two years later, they sunk it entirely when Germany tryied to get it.

I really cannot see how we could doubt that French tried to keep it under their sole control, out of anyone's reach.

I do understand what You say about the British side (just in case, a small precision: I'm not accusing nor am I buying the "perfidious Albion getting rid of an potentially uncomfortable concurrent on sea" meme).

I simply can't understand Churchill's action. He wasn't coming from a Austrian landforce background so to not realize what la Royale ment, to not know how a Navy is functioning, what the mentality of the comandment of a Navy is.

One of the reasons it ended in a fight at Mers El Kebir is that the way "negotiations" went, it made almost inconceivable a positive response from the French hierarchy. Adm Gensoul, although reputed as anglophile, ended in answering : "we will not open fire, but we will respond back if we're attacked".

Not that illogical, if we take into account for example that the Ark Royal started mining the channel while adm Gensoul was still discussing with cpt Holland ...
 

Linschoten

Ad Honoris
Aug 2010
16,202
Welsh Marches
You have just confirmed what I was saying, that that the French didn't in fact regard their ships as being a 'last ace' that would protect them from being pressed further by the Nazis , they never contemplated using them in that way and just scuttled them when the Germans set their eyes on them. So their fleet was in fact already useless to them and would have become no less so if they had sent it to the Caribbean; the most ironical thing about all of this is that the French would almost certainly have saved more of their ships if they had agreed to send them there! (I wasn't arguing for or against Churchill's actions, merely questioning the appositeness of your analogy. The negotiations were certainly mishandled.)
 

deaf tuner

Ad Honoris
Oct 2013
14,410
Europix
You have just confirmed what I was saying,
I don't think so.

French lost practicaly their entire fleet:
- sunk by British
- confiscated by British
- scuttled when endangered to be confiscated by German

The very few remaining operational were those in North Africa that weren't sunken/confiscated by British and out of German reach, those few, eventually, rallying the Free French.
 

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