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Mers-el-Kébir


Subject History

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405189224.2011.x


Extract

Algerian port where, early in world war ii , part of the French fleet was attacked by the Royal Navy. Following the signing of the Franco-German armistice on June 22, 1940, the British feared that the French navy, the fourth largest in the world, would fall into Nazi hands. Although the armistice had stated that French vessels should be immobilized and Admiral darlan had issued separate orders aimed at preventing any commandeering by the Germans, such attempted safeguards were insufficient for the British. On the morning of July 3, French ships in UK harbors were seized, while the fleet at Mersel-Kébir was given a variety of options: to join the Royal Navy, to sail to British ports, to depart for the French West Indies, or to scuttle itself. After inconclusive negotiations, the British opened fire in the late afternoon, sinking several vessels and causing the deaths of 1, 297 sailors, the majority of whom drowned after abandoning their ships. The new vichy regime retaliated by breaking off diplomatic relations and bombing Gibraltar. General de gaulle , the free french leader in London, was also outraged and threatened to withdraw his services. Nonetheless, the episode demonstrated to the world the determination of the British to stay in the war and to take the fighting to the Germans in the Mediterranean. ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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