The French fleet

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paul.mercer
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The French fleet

Postby paul.mercer » Tue Aug 08, 2017 9:29 pm

Gentlemen,
In your opinion, would Hitler and the German navy used the French fleet if it had not been all but destroyed, or would the French admirals have scuttled them first?

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Dave Saxton
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Re: The French fleet

Postby Dave Saxton » Tue Aug 08, 2017 10:51 pm

The Germans did try to seize the remainder of the French fleet on the 27th of Nov 1942 at Toulon. The French admirals did scuttle their fleet including the Dunkerque and the Strasbourg, 7 cruisers, and 17 destroyers.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: The French fleet

Postby frontkampfer » Wed Aug 09, 2017 12:59 am

Paul,

Excellent topic. Getting the French fleet reasonably intact would have helped the Germans in their balance against Britan but they would still be short on trained personnel.
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RF
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Re: The French fleet

Postby RF » Thu Aug 10, 2017 1:27 pm

Not just trained personnel but also of course shortages in fuel oil.

Any extra fuel devoted to French ships means even less for the regular German warships and U-boats.
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RF
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Re: The French fleet

Postby RF » Thu Aug 10, 2017 1:41 pm

paul.mercer wrote:Gentlemen,
In your opinion, would Hitler and the German navy used the French fleet if it had not been all but destroyed, or would the French admirals have scuttled them first?


Hitler had an opportunity to force the French to hand over their fleet to the Germans at the armistice ceremony at Compiegne, where the occupied and unoccupied areas of France were determined. As the Allies had done in 1918 with the HSF Hitler could have made it a condition of the armistice of 22 June 1940 that the French sail their warships to German ports intact, or allow the Germans to seize them in French or north African ports. However Raeder never suggested it to the Fuhrer.

At the time the Germans considered the war to be over - so the French fleet wasn't seen as needed.

Had a long war been correctly called and the French ships seized I don't think they would have been of much practical use. Those French submarines that were seized were of little help to Donitz. Moreover the Germans had the Italian fleet on their side and again they proved to be of little use in the Med and never got to the Atlantic.
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Re: The French fleet

Postby Paul L » Thu Aug 10, 2017 11:56 pm

RF wrote:
paul.mercer wrote:Gentlemen,
In your opinion, would Hitler and the German navy used the French fleet if it had not been all but destroyed, or would the French admirals have scuttled them first?


Hitler had an opportunity to force the French to hand over their fleet to the Germans at the armistice ceremony at Compiegne, where the occupied and unoccupied areas of France were determined. As the Allies had done in 1918 with the HSF Hitler could have made it a condition of the armistice of 22 June 1940 that the French sail their warships to German ports intact, or allow the Germans to seize them in French or north African ports. However Raeder never suggested it to the Fuhrer.

At the time the Germans considered the war to be over - so the French fleet wasn't seen as needed.

Had a long war been correctly called and the French ships seized I don't think they would have been of much practical use. Those French submarines that were seized were of little help to Donitz. Moreover the Germans had the Italian fleet on their side and again they proved to be of little use in the Med and never got to the Atlantic.



Surely they never got into the Atlantic because the RN stood in the way?

I also doubt the RN fleet tied up in the Med was not valuable, so keeping it there did matter.

Possessing the French Fleet would allow the Germans to command a presence in Med from the beginning. Some Vichy French sailors would have sailed under German flag, even under German officers. The smaller warships could be valuable , while the biggest could be considered a "fleet in being". The British would still have to try to destroy such a force by air.

Personally I would drag all the cruisers to KM ports- remove all the turret/guns to be mounted along the Atlantic Wall, while I converted the cruiser hulls into escort carriers , to make up shortfall in this area.
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Dave Saxton
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Re: The French fleet

Postby Dave Saxton » Fri Aug 11, 2017 1:02 am

Paul L wrote:
Personally I would drag all the cruisers to KM ports- remove all the turret/guns to be mounted along the Atlantic Wall, while I converted the cruiser hulls into escort carriers , to make up shortfall in this area.


Goering would never allow that to happen.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: The French fleet

Postby Paul L » Fri Aug 11, 2017 1:29 am

Dave Saxton wrote:
Paul L wrote:
Personally I would drag all the cruisers to KM ports- remove all the turret/guns to be mounted along the Atlantic Wall, while I converted the cruiser hulls into escort carriers , to make up shortfall in this area.


Goering would never allow that to happen.



there would have be some deals made.
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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: The French fleet

Postby Alberto Virtuani » Fri Aug 11, 2017 9:30 am

RF wrote: "Hitler had an opportunity to force the French to hand over their fleet to the Germans at the armistice ceremony at Compiegne, where the occupied and unoccupied areas of France were determined. As the Allies had done in 1918 with the HSF Hitler could have made it a condition of the armistice of 22 June 1940 that the French sail their warships to German ports intact, or allow the Germans to seize them in French or north African ports. However Raeder never suggested it to the Fuhrer."

Hi RF,
I think you have got exactly the key point here.

The armistice conditions imposed to France were absolutely weak, especially with respect to Med warfare.
In addition to the intact french fleet hand over (that should have been made a mandatory part of the armistice conditions), the Germans/Italian failed to impose the hand over of the intact north Africa french air bases that would have greatly helped the Axis forces to seal the central Mediterranean, making even more difficult the position of Malta and the exchanges with Alexandria.

In fact, there was no valid strategy in the Med since the beginning, mostly due to the Italian poor naval vision and to the Duce ambitions, that e.g. preferred to "invade" Greece ( :oops: ) instead of seizing Malta.

The shortage of fuel, however still would have been the main problem.


Bye, Alberto
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RF
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Re: The French fleet

Postby RF » Tue Aug 15, 2017 6:12 pm

Paul L wrote:
Surely they never got into the Atlantic because the RN stood in the way?

I also doubt the RN fleet tied up in the Med was not valuable, so keeping it there did matter.


What I was referring to, as other respondents have also alluded, was the entirely defensive posture of the Italians, particulary their navy, when Italy joined the war.
Initially the Italians did tie down the British fleet in the Med, until the Taranto raid. After that the main pressures on Somerville came from the Germans, principally the Luftwaffe, U-boats and the presence of German land forces in north Africa, in which the Italians were only supporting forces.

Had the Italians entered the war on 10 June with a detailed battle plan and aggressive moves they could have achieved a decisive result that could have forced Churchill out of office and forced Britain into a negotiated surrender without the need for Sea Lion to be carried out. The British Med fleet may well have been needed in the Atlantic to deal with the threat of German invasion, while the Italians seized Malta and the Suez Canal.

With respect to fuel supplies, during the period of the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact the USSR was Germany's principal supplier of oil, more so than Romania. Part of this fuel was allocated to Italy. The Italians could have got Hitler to require the Soviets to hand them more oil.

In the actual campaign the British Med fleet divided its presence between the Med and Atlantic, including being in the Atlantic to help in the pursuit of the Bismarck at the same time the Germans were overrunning Crete.
I think that decisive use of the Italian fleet in the summer of 1940 offered the best chance of success - the French ships could have been useful, but there are training and logistical issues involved. Using French crews is an unknown quantity - some of them will be on your side, others would be less trustworthy.
Ultimately the main criteria for using the French and Italian fleets is that Germany spends all its efforts in defeating Britain. As soon as the focus goes on to Barbarossa then the prime resource allocations go to that theatre, leaving the Axis ships in a sideshow campaign.

What the Axis needed was an agreed, combined grand strategy - to defeat Britain completely before taking on anyone else and quite possibly have no war with the USSR until the USA is destroyed. Indeed had Hitler and the Japanese been really savvy they could have roped in the USSR as a fourth Axis power in tackling the USA.....
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Re: The French fleet

Postby paul.mercer » Wed Aug 16, 2017 10:17 am

Gentlemen,
As always, my thanks for your expert opinions. What has always puzzled me is why the French were so reluctant to sail their ships out and join the RN when they had a chance - and were offered this as an alternative. Was it because of old long standing enmity between the British and the French, or just pride?

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RF
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Re: The French fleet

Postby RF » Thu Aug 17, 2017 8:10 am

Just look at what happened at Mers-el-Kabir.

It could have caused Vichy France to have fully joined the Axis and declare war on Britain, just as Italy had just entered the war, with French forces in the African colonies (especially North Africa) and the middle East ready to join in with the Italians in attacking British colonies.... the whole British position in the Med, Palestine and the rest of the middle East could have been lost...

Fortunately Churchill gambled correctly and more than got away with it...... the US saw that Britain was serious about continuing the war, Hitler and Mussolini were too thick to see any significance in that action, the French for the most part realised that the war was not quite over and that is why support for De Gaulle gradually increased over time instead of being wiped out at a stroke.
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RF
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Re: The French fleet

Postby RF » Thu Aug 17, 2017 8:22 am

paul.mercer wrote:Gentlemen,
As always, my thanks for your expert opinions. What has always puzzled me is why the French were so reluctant to sail their ships out and join the RN when they had a chance - and were offered this as an alternative. Was it because of old long standing enmity between the British and the French, or just pride?


Don't forget also that France was split politically throughout the 1930's and after the declaration of war, with substantial support both for and against naziism.
What happened in June/July 1940 reflected that political split. Matters were further complicated by the USSR at that time being friendly with Nazi Germany, which inhibited the communist left from opposing Hitler and the occupation.
Substantial French forces declared for De Gaulle at the outset, including a large part of the French army evacuated at Dunkirk and still in Britain when France was overrun. Some French naval ships did join up with the RN at the outset, while other French ships in British ports did resist/obstruct British seizure of these ships.

But for the most part French colonial forces sat on the proverbial fence and they all gradually joined the Allies as they saw which way the war was going.
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

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Re: The French fleet

Postby pgollin » Mon Aug 21, 2017 11:52 am

.

The two matters are somewhat connected to the general feeling that Germany had "won the war" after the Invasion of France and various British/French evacuations.

Italy (or more properly Mussolini) just wanted to grab some spoils. It/he declared war without properly thinking. They "should" have called all their merchant shipping back home (with as much fuel as possible, and ordered strategic goods/materials/oil to arrive whilst they remained semi-neutral. As it is they forwent a lot of their shipping and failed to properly prepare before declaring war.

France had entered into a binding agreement with the UK whereby they would fight together and NOT seek or agree a separate peace. When France was crumbling they asked to be excused their binding agreement (!) and the UK agreed on a conditional basis (things like secrets and intelligence security, etc...) INCLUDING that the French fleet would be put away outside of any possible use by the Germans. This, as with the binding agreement, the French did not keep.

Vichy France was at times extremely pro German and at times they could have gone totally over to the Axis. The change in attitude only really happened once it was obvious that the German offensive in Russia had been stopped and that the Western Allies were getting stronger.

.


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