Churchill’s Darkest Decision (2009) (TV)

Notes on the documentary “Churchill’s Darkest Decision” (The naval Battle of Mers-el-Kebir)

* The documentary states unquestioningly that Admiral Darlan was trustworthy and would keep his promise. But, Admiral Darlan became a major figure within the Nazi collaborating Vichy French regime. He was put in command of Vichy French North Africa, and refused to join the Free French. He implemented Nazi policies in North Africa, including persecution of Jews. At the beginning of Operation Torch (British, American, and Free French invasion of Vichy French North Africa), Darlan was arrested by Free French partisans, but it took three days of negotiations before Darlan agreed to order Vichy forces to cease hostilities with the Allies. One of the conditions was that Darlan be kept in command of French North Africa. This agreement enraged de Gaulle, who thought of Darlan as an untrustworthy Nazi collaborator. A former French resistance fighter assassinated Darlan only a month later. It was said that “no tears were shed” by the British over his death.

* Admiral Darlan’s promise was simply that the Germans wouldn’t be given the ships directly. There was no mention of the ships being used against the Allies under Vichy French command.

* The documentary implies that Admiral Darlan’s promise was good enough. But, Gensoul, not Darlan, was in command of the fleet at Mers-el-Kebir. Darlan was in Vichy France, and there was no guarantee that Gensoul would not follow alternative orders, or that Darlan would lose control of the Vichy navy at some later date. The fleet’s future was solely the decision of the Vichy regime, not Darlan’s.

* The Allies fought against Vichy France, since it was a Nazi minor ally lending support to Axis forces. For example: Axis air forces allowed into Vichy controlled Syria to give support to pro-Nazi Arab rebels in Iraq.

* Battles and campaigns against Vichy France:
– Battle of Dakar, 1940
– Syria-Lebanon Campaign, 1941
– Battle of Madagascar, 1942
– Operation Torch (Invasion of Vichy French North Africa), 1942
Note: The Vichy French fleet would have been used against the Allies during these battles.

* The documentary claims they were still allies at the time. But, the Battle of Mers-el-Kebir took place after the formation of Vichy France (22 June 1940), and it was therefore the Vichy French fleet. So they were not “allies” of the British.

* The scuttling of the Vichy French fleet at Toulon over two years later (November 1942), was only when the Germans broke their treaty with the Vichy regime and occupied the rest of France.

* The Battle of Mers-el-Kebir was portrayed as a “massacre”, but in reality it was a battle:

Belligerents: United Kingdom vs France
Commanders: Sir James Somerville vs Marcel-Bruno Gensoul
Strength:
– English: 1 aircraft carrier, 2 battleships, 1 battlecruiser, 2 light cruisers, 11 destroyers, unknown aircraft.
– French: 4 battleships, 6 destroyers, 1 seaplane.
Casualties and losses:
– English: 6 aircraft destroyed, 6 dead.
– French: 1 battleship sunk, 2 battleships heavily damaged, 3 destroyers damaged, 1 destroyer grounded, 1,297 killed, unknown wounded.

Churchill’s Darkest Decision (2009) (TV)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1445603/

Battle of Mers-el-Kébir
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Mers-el-Kebir

23 June, 2010

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