The Time that England Sunk an Ally's Ships
The Nazi invasion of France began on May 10th 1940. Within six weeks, they had reached Paris, forcing the country to surrender. On June 25, 1940, an armistice was signed between Germany and France. To rub salt into the wound, the signing of the armistice took place on the same train car as the 1918 Armistice when Germany surrendered after World War I.
With France now technically out of the war, Britain was worried about what would happen to the French Navy. According to the terms of the armistice, the French Navy could not be used by Germany or Italy. However, the British had long ago learned that the Nazis had a habit of not following written agreements. They worried that the French Navy, which was the fourth largest in the world at the time, would tip the scales in the favor of the Axis.
Many of the French Navy didn't want to be controlled by the Nazis either. Many set sail for British ports or French colonial ports. The largest concentration was at the port of Mers el Kebir outside Oran, Algeria.
The British created a powerful squadron named Force H and sent it into the Mediterranean to negotiate the surrender of the French ships at Mers el Kebir. They gave the French four options: "(1) to put to sea and join forces with the Royal Navy; (2) to sail with reduced crews to British ports, where the vessels would be impounded and their complements repatriated; (3) to sail with reduced crews to the base at Dakar, where the ships would be immobilized; or (4) to scuttle his ships within six hours."
After hours of fruitless negotiations, Force H opened fire on the French ships. In the resulting firefight, the French lost one ship and four others were damaged. They rest got out of the port before they could be fired on.
To this day, the attack is a sore point for the French Navy.
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