Mers-el-Kebir and Toulon

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Ramius
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Mers-el-Kebir and Toulon

Post by Ramius » Thu Apr 03, 2008 8:18 pm

As others have requested (although I don't know why they didn't start it themselves), and due to the light that political topics are to stay in Off Topic, I have created a Topic on the in port political disasters of the French Fleet of WW2.

In a different topic I stated my opinion that the attack onto the French port of Mers-el-Kebir was one of the stupidest things the Royal Navy has done since it's creation. The British could have just blockaded them until further negotiations with the commanders or the government could be made, not leaving a scar on political relations with the French and destroying or damaging a good portion of their fleet, therefor reducing the number of operable allied ships (for the French had two modern BBs, a few older BBs, cruisers, and some destroyers, all of which could have helped the allies with the war at sea against the Twins and other possible Commerce Raiders and in the Pacific).

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Karl Heidenreich
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Post by Karl Heidenreich » Thu Apr 03, 2008 9:51 pm

Ramius,

When the Mers El Kebir action took place the British were on the defensive: Germany was winning the war a that moment. And that´s important because many things you would never consider when winning became the obvious choice when losing.
For the British, after the humiliation of the French campaign, Dunkerke and all that stuff it was a very clear posibility that the Germans would be the ones who became owners of the French fleet. So, as when it´s logical to blow bridges that could be used in a further offensive, it was plain clear to them that the French fleet was better at the bottom of the sea than a potential danger to the sea routes.

So, at my point of view, it wasn´t a foolish choice but a logical one.

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Post by Ramius » Thu Apr 03, 2008 9:58 pm

Hi Karl,
I see your point, although I still think that they could have waited a little while longer for the negotiations to resume. Why blow up what could be yours in the future, although they would probably land in Norfolk with the occupation of France and be refit with better radar and USN use.

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Post by Karl Heidenreich » Thu Apr 03, 2008 10:35 pm

Ramius,

Your point is full of hindsight. When the French fleet was blown there was no idea of any landing anywhere (the only likely landing were the Germans on England), less in Normandy.

Here is an example. When the Market Garden Operation took place in September 1944 and the US and British airborne divisions land all over Holland the Waffen SS General Bittrich asked permision from Model to blow the bridges in order to stop the Horrock´s XXX Corps attack. Done at that time the allies would have never gone past Eindhoven. But Model replied to Bittrich: "No bridge will be blown because I need them for our counter offensive..."
Bittrich was wondering how a counter offensive could take place if the Germans didn´t even have an army with that potential?

The same here. When this took place the British were thinking on defending their island and the sea approaches. Any idea of offensive actions were years ahead.

Kind regards.
An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.
Sir Winston Churchill

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Post by Ramius » Thu Apr 03, 2008 10:38 pm

:think: Where were the Germans the day after the British shelled Mers-el-Kabir?

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Post by dougieo » Thu Apr 03, 2008 11:49 pm

probably looking at the White Cliffs of Dover!!

anyway, as Karl has pointed out the UK was on the back foot and fighting for survival, like a boxer on the ropes.

they also had to think about the following

1 Could the Germans be trusted not to sieze the fleet giving there form on treaty keeping.

2 Italy had decided to gallantly enter the war on the winning side and could easily make a move to grab the ships to bolster there own fleet which may have turned the tide in the Med.


Unfotunatly in war you have to act hard and fast without the help of hindsight

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Post by RNfanDan » Fri Apr 04, 2008 4:54 am

I'm convinced the best result the British were hoping for--of all the choices they offered the French--was to have them join-up for the duration of the war with the RN.

Gensoul, himself, had not long before M-E-K, operated with the British (HMS Hood, in fact) in a combined but unsuccessful sweep against S&G.

The situation was far more complex from the French point of view however, and it was primarily the distrust of the Germans and not the French, that dictated British actions. The well-intended French were in much too vulnerable a position for Britain to rely on them to keep their powerful ships out of German hands. The French command was even on shaky grounds amongst their top echelon, and those days were a very confused and dangerous time for both nations.

Neither side got what they would otherwise have gladly accepted.

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Re: Mers-el-Kebir and Toulon

Post by RF » Fri Apr 04, 2008 1:09 pm

Ramius wrote: ...in a different topic I stated my opinion that the attack onto the French port of Mers-el-Kebir was one of the stupidest things the Royal Navy has done since it's creation.
As an opinion yes, you are fully free to express it, but that doesn't alter the fact that it is completely wrong.

Churchill made mistakes in both world wars, but his decision to fire on the French Navy, in the circumstances, was absolutely right.

Consider the global strategic position. The actions of the RN resonated around the World, showing the Americans and Soviets that Britain was far from finished. It certainly helped persuade Franco to stay out of the war.
It also put the Italian Navy on the defensive, let alone scupper any idea the Italians had of invading Malta.

As for the Germans - well at least the KM knew the war was far from over.

It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if one of Churchill's other ideas had been pursued, back in 1911, namely to ''copenhagen'' the German High Seas Fleet. At the time Churchill was told he was mad.
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

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Post by lwd » Fri Apr 04, 2008 1:14 pm

I'm not sure why this isn't in the naval history section. While it may delve into politics it's the politics of WWII and directly relates to naval history.

This action was/is indeed controversial and I have seen arguments both ways as to whether or not it was a good idea. I'm not completely convinced either way but tend to think it wasn't an unreasonable action on the part of the British. However when I see comments like:
the biggest strategical mistake the Royal Navy made in the 20th century
one of the options is that I missing something(s) very important.

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Post by Ramius » Fri Apr 04, 2008 4:57 pm

lwd wrote:However when I see comments like:
the biggest strategical mistake the Royal Navy made in the 20th century
one of the options is that I missing something(s) very important.
Fine, you tell me what you think was the Royal Navy's biggest mistake in WW2...

That question may sound childish, but so are your attack's on other people's opinions.

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Post by lwd » Fri Apr 04, 2008 5:45 pm

Ramius wrote:
lwd wrote:However when I see comments like:
the biggest strategical mistake the Royal Navy made in the 20th century
one of the options is that I missing something(s) very important.
Fine, you tell me what you think was the Royal Navy's biggest mistake in WW2...

That question may sound childish, but so are your attack's on other people's opinions.
Why do you take the above as an attack? I assume that when you voice an opionion in a forum like this you have a reason for doing so. I'm not an authority on this area and am curious what your rational is. Now there does seam to be a bit of hyperbole involved as the above would incompous events from well before WWI to after the Falklands war. Again I haven't looked in detail for what strategic mistakes the RN made over that period. So I'm not sure what the competion would be. Also since it sounds like this was Churchills decsion it looks like you are inluding any British decision focused around the RN. In that case I would offer up the changes in force structure leading up to the Falklands war as a possible counter example. What were the strategic fall outs of Mers-el-Kebir?

It seams to me that one of the major points of forums like this is to discuss and debate events and yes opinions. That's how one learns. I don't see it as childish at all to do so. Obviously your opinion differs. However I think you will find on most sites like this mine is the more common so you will have to learn to live with it or find another alternative.

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Post by tommy303 » Fri Apr 04, 2008 5:58 pm

Hi RF
It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if one of Churchill's other ideas had been pursued, back in 1911, namely to ''copenhagen'' the German High Seas Fleet. At the time Churchill was told he was mad.
I thought it was Fisher who wanted to Copenhagen the HSF.

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Post by Gerard Heimann » Fri Apr 04, 2008 8:54 pm

Copenhagen the fleet? As in mothball?

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RF
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Post by RF » Sat Apr 05, 2008 9:34 am

Ramius wrote:
Fine, you tell me what you think was the Royal Navy's biggest mistake in WW2...
Sending POW and Repulse into action against the Japanese without proper air support, both land based and carriers.
The Indomitable was scheduled to join Admiral Phillips squadron but was delayed when the ship ran aground of Jamaica... Churchill decided he couldn't wait for replacements.....
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

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Post by RF » Sat Apr 05, 2008 9:41 am

tommy303 wrote:
I thought it was Fisher who wanted to Copenhagen the HSF.
Fisher was the First Sea Lord who unfortunately put Churchill's views to Prime Minister Asquith. When told that he, Fisher, must be mad, he disclosed the source of the recommended action, which was kept quiet because Churchill was a member of the ruling Liberal government at the time. It was not kept quiet behind the scenes as Churchill nearly lost his job.
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

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