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

Linschoten

Ad Honoris
Aug 2010
16,175
Welsh Marches
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.
Namely 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." You did confirm that specific point. And you have gone on to confirm that the French could have saved their entire fleet if they had removed them from European waters, which was an option that they were offered before the British sank any of their ships.

At Alexandria, Admiral Godefroy agreed to demilitarize the French ships (a battleship, four cruisers, three destroyers), and they later sailed away to join the allied cause in 1943:
FRENCH FLEET LEAVES ALEXANDRIA. 23 JUNE 1943, ALEXANDRIA.
 

Linschoten

Ad Honoris
Aug 2010
16,175
Welsh Marches
I wasn't making an analogy, Lins.

I was asking a British what he thinks British would have done, how would British Navy react in a similar position.

Genuine question!
But the situation that you described wasn't exactly comparable to the French situation. That's all I was saying. For the record, I think that a British Admiral's first impulse in such a situation would have been to tell the French to go to hell, but it would finally depend on how he and his senior officers viwed the poltical situation. It is by no means impossible that if there was a Quisling government in London, senior naval officers might have been willing to take their fleet away to foreign waters on their own initiative, but it is very hard to say.
 

deaf tuner

Ad Honoris
Oct 2013
14,293
Europix
At Alexandria, Admiral Godefroy agreed to demilitarize the French ships (a battleship, four cruisers, three destroyers),
And it's one of the reasons I'm puzzled by all the operation, in fact. It's the very example that it was doable!

At Alexandria, Cunningham took it very badly (I mean the Catapult operation), and he did not seized the fleet as it was initially ordered, but negotiated, and he obtained the disarmament of the French.

Operation Catapult started the 3rd, the Alexandria agreement was reached 7th July.
 
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Kevinmeath

Ad Honoris
May 2011
13,911
Navan, Ireland
And it's one of the reasons I'm puzzled by all the operation, in fact. It's the very example that it was doable!

At Alexandria, Cunningham took it very badly (I mean the Catapult operation), and he did not seized the fleet as it was initially ordered, but negotiated, and he obtained the disarmament of the French.

Operation Catapult started the 3rd, the Alexandria agreement was reached 7th July.
An excellent Admiral like Cunningham (best of the whole war perhaps?-- debateable true) might have dealt with the situation better-- however while he negotiated the guns of his fleet were trained on the French.

While the events at Toulon would seem to suggest that the operation was not needed the British did not know that and they were able to cease French ships in North Africa and Britain, why couldn't the Germans?

And who says the Germans couldn't have been more effective than they were at Toulon -- take hundreds of French civilians hostage and started executing then in batches until the ships are turned over?--- Gestapo capable of that?-- certainly. The French sailors reaction? I am certain they would have happily laid down their own lives but watch civilians-- including women and children perhaps even their own families -- not so sure.
 

GogLais

Ad Honorem
Sep 2013
5,321
Wirral
I wasn't making an analogy, Lins.

I was asking a British what he thinks British would have done, how would British Navy react in a similar position.

Genuine question!
It isn’t necessarily a case of criticising France’s actions, it’s more a case of tying to understand Britain’s,
 

Kevinmeath

Ad Honoris
May 2011
13,911
Navan, Ireland
The UK should indeed have taken measures to rearm. Conscription should have been reinstaured as early as 1936. ......................................

....................................................., he wouldn't have been wrong if it hadn't been for Churchill.
This is simply foolish and is using 20:20 hindsight.

If the British PM had attempted to introduce conscription and re-arm in 1936 he would have been voted out of office.

There was not the stomach for war the people wanted peace-- Chamberlain and his 'appeasement' was popular no one wanted another World war that would be even worse than the last.

As it was Chamberlain struggled to get through defence spending foe 'defensive' measure like fighters and radar.

Conscription? no chance.
 
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Likes: Linschoten

deaf tuner

Ad Honoris
Oct 2013
14,293
Europix
An excellent Admiral like Cunningham (best of the whole war perhaps?-- debateable true) might have dealt with the situation better-- however while he negotiated the guns of his fleet were trained on the French.

While the events at Toulon would seem to suggest that the operation was not needed the British did not know that and they were able to cease French ships in North Africa and Britain, why couldn't the Germans?

And who says the Germans couldn't have been more effective than they were at Toulon -- take hundreds of French civilians hostage and started executing then in batches until the ships are turned over?--- Gestapo capable of that?-- certainly. The French sailors reaction? I am certain they would have happily laid down their own lives but watch civilians-- including women and children perhaps even their own families -- not so sure.
Very true.

You realize that the vice-versa was also true, don't You?

French obtained in the last minute changing art 8 of the armistice, meaning getting the fleet out of German control.

Unlike transfuge, deserters, whatever, joining Free French/British/Allies/Resistance that had a lot of chance passing unknown, unnoticed, thus not endangering their families, sailors didn't had that possibility (passing unnoticed, I mean). As for an entire fleet passing just like that on British side, it would have been nothing less than breaking the armistice, probably bringing repression on occupied France.

That was a thought that existed in French high hierarchy's mind.

I'm not apologizing here. Just saying that they really were between Scilla and Caribdis.
 

Kevinmeath

Ad Honoris
May 2011
13,911
Navan, Ireland
........................................As for an entire fleet passing just like that on British side, it would have been nothing less than breaking the armistice, probably bringing repression on occupied France.......
Passing onto the British side would have broken the armistice but removal to a position beyond the power of either side to take the fleet (as was offered) would not have I seem to remember.



.............I'm not apologizing here. Just saying that they really were between Scilla and Caribdis .
I would agree but would say that also applied to the British.
 

deaf tuner

Ad Honoris
Oct 2013
14,293
Europix
It isn’t necessarily a case of criticising France’s actions, it’s more a case of tying to understand Britain’s,
I know.

It's the British I try to understand, that's why I keep posting and asking here.

I found finally one of Churchill's notes, the note that makes me puzzled on the Catapult.

In WWI, the same issue arised: and if France falls, and there's the risk that Germans take the French fleet?

First Lord of Admiralty, W. Churchill amswered:
" This idea of the French Fleet being handed over to Germany is absurd. It passes human reason to suppose that French officers would hand over French ships to Germany to enable Germany to destroy their ally.

They would not do this even if every man, woman and child on the soil of France were going to be put to the sword"


Three decades later, the same man didn't believed that any longer.

French Navy's reaction on the other hand, proved he was wrong in no longer believing.

Definitely, history is odd!
 

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