Vichy and Britain… July 23, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in History.
I’ve just finished reading England’s Last War Against France: Fighting Vichy 1940 − 1942 by Colin Smith.
It’s a genuinely riveting account of the very real war between Britain and Vichy during the Second World War, a war characterised by bizarre aspects, not least the fact that as British and Vichy air, sea and land based military units were engaging the United States, Australia and IIRC Canada had full diplomatic relations with the regime.
The events at Mers-el-Kébir are perhaps most well known, or infamous, when units of the Royal Navy sank a fair portion of the French Fleet as a pre-emptive measure to ensure the Germans were not able to get a hold of them. The rest of the French Fleet effectively sat out the war in Toulon where when the Germans decided to terminate the relatively short life of the Vichy regime they were scuttled (as the French had said they would be) when the Germans attempted to take them some years later.
There’s some nicely sardonic writing in it, as well as a real sense of the contingency and loss of war. Some quotes will give a sense of its approach.
As did the Assyrian Constabulary, who, together with some vintage RAF armoured cars, patrolled its 7 miles of steel perimeter fence and were as loyal to the British as only a persecuted minority could be.
A growing number were Communists who felt that the valour of the Red Army was living proof of the innate goodness of Stalin.
Roosevelt’s decision to maintain diplomatic relations with Vichy France, a grace and favour Nazi client state that Hitler could close down with the flick of a switch, had been castigated by the liberal press who wanted America to back de Gaulle.