Welcome to the NavList Message Boards.


A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding

Compose Your Message

Add Images & Files
    Mers el Kebir
    From: George Huxtable
    Date: 2004 Sep 18, 22:35 +0100

    Fred Hebard wrote-
    >> In a splendid waste of time, I came across the British Navy's history
    >> site, .  The site
    >> is organized in a decidedly non-web manner, rather top down, but is
    >> very informative.
    >> Fred
    and Zorbec Legras, with reason, commented-
    >Not a single word about Mers el Kebir...
    Response by George.
    Not a navigational matter, to be honest, but nevertheless, Zorbec is right
    to remind us all about that shameful day. It has always been kept rather
    quiet in Britain. If Zorbec memtions Mers el Kebir to anyone in Britain, he
    is likely to get a blank response. My guess is that many Americans also are
    unaware of what happened at Mers el Kebir, which occurred some 18 months
    before they entered our war. But I know it still rankles in France, and so
    it should. I will explain a bit of what happened as I see it, and I hope
    Zorbec will correct any errors.
    It was mid-1940, and the Germans had overrun France, and imposed an
    armistice. As a result, the Vichy goverment, covering much of France, would
    be formed, forced to collaborate with the occupation. One of the terms of
    the armistice was that the French fleet was to be recalled to their home
    ports, though Hitler declared that he would not use those vessels in the
    war. Churchill didn't believe he would keep that promise, and insisted that
    the French fleet, their allies up to then, should head for British ports
    The French Mediterreanean fleet was holed up behind the breakwater in the
    port of Mers-el Kebir, near Oran in Franch Algeria. They were surprised by
    the arrival of the British fleet outside the port, bottling them in.
    They were given an ultimatum, which offered certain choices, all intended
    to keep the fleet out of German hands. They could sail with the British
    against the Germans (as they had been doing before); they could surrender
    their ships in Britain to be disarmed; they could take their fleet to a
    distant French possession, such as Martinique in the West Indies; or they
    could sink their ships in the harbour. Or the British fleet would sink
    The French couldn't believe that the British fleet would take such action
    against a navy who had, until that moment, been their allies. The outraged
    response was that they would reply to force with force. A few hours later
    the British opened fire, by sea and air. They were free to move about
    outside, but the French were trapped behind the harbour wall with  little
    chance to respond. Few vessels managed to escape. 1300 French sailors lost
    their lives.
    This was one of the more inglorious episodes in British naval history, and
    even today, 64 years later, the French have not forgiven us, or Churchill,
    for what they rightly regard as the treachery involved. In Britain, the
    matter is never discussed.
    My information on this matter is entirely second-hand, taken from Warren
    Tute's book "The Deadly Stroke" (1973), which may not be an entirely
    balanced account. Perhaps, neither is mine.
    contact George Huxtable by email at george@huxtable.u-net.com, by phone at
    01865 820222 (from outside UK, +44 1865 820222), or by mail at 1 Sandy
    Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK.

    Browse Files

    Drop Files


    What is NavList?

    Join NavList

    (please, no nicknames or handles)
    Do you want to receive all group messages by email?
    Yes No

    You can also join by posting. Your first on-topic post automatically makes you a member.

    Posting Code

    Enter the email address associated with your NavList messages. Your posting code will be emailed to you immediately.

    Email Settings

    Posting Code:

    Custom Index

    Start date: (yyyymm dd)
    End date: (yyyymm dd)

    Visit this site
    Visit this site
    Visit this site
    Visit this site
    Visit this site
    Visit this site