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Thread: 'Operation Catapult': Churchill's Darkest Decision

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    'Operation Catapult': Churchill's Darkest Decision

    Documentary on operation Catapult and the battle of Mers-el-Kébir, a one sided contest by all accounts.

    Part 1


    Part 2


    Part 3


    Part 4


    Part 5
    "All passion is lost now. The world is mediocre, limp, without force. And madness and despair are a force. And force is a crime in the eyes of the fools, the weak and the silly who rule the roost." - Joseph Conrad

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    Compared to the invasion of Norway 1940, Dieppe 1942 the or the invasion of Gallipoli 1915, three major Churchillian disasters, this disaster one is comparable small. It just upset the French and drove Vichy France into the German camp.

    Here is a French news report about it.


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    Quote Originally Posted by MCP3
    Compared to the invasion of Norway 1940, Dieppe 1942 the or the invasion of Gallipoli 1915, three major Churchillian disasters, this disaster one is comparable small. It just upset the French and drove Vichy France into the German camp.
    Mers-el-Kébir was not a disaster for the British Empire - although militarily an unnecessary move (but the Brits couldn't know that at the time) - it convinced the U.S. the Brits were serious about continuing the war after the Fall of France and guaranteed American support for the British war effort and it made sure the Vichy French fleet in Mers-el-Kébir would not end up in German hands. The Vichy French fleet was never going to be handed over to the Germans, as the French always said and would later prove when they blew up their own fleet in Toulon when the Germans tried to seize it during Operation Atilla; The French felt betrayed and disrespected - and Mers-el-Kébir came right after Dunkirk, that other lowpoint in Franco-British relations. But there was always a chance of German or Italian mobile forces reaching the ships first before French sailors could sink them - the Brits didn't take any chances. Mers-el-Kébir was a diplomatic victory for the Brits, insofar it ensured U.S. support, and a huge diplomatic failure too, as it completely ruined the relation between London and most Frenchmen & the Vichy government at the time. The Vichy govt. undertook some minor/symbolic retaliatory operations, including the bombing of Gibraltar, but it did not declare war. The Brits were willing to pay the price of having absolute certainty regarding the fate of the Vichy French fleet.

    The sinking of the anchored Vichy French fleet was an example of realpolitik and it was beyond all doubt a bold, hyper dirty move. The British admiral in charge, Somerville, thought it was the most dreadful thing and felt more shame than pride in having to do this assassin job, bombarding a former ally.

    Gallipoli was not a Churchillian disaster though. Churchill's sensible plan, with which he sought to avoid stalemate and quickly conquer Istanbul, wasn't carried out properly by the admirals. And the Canadian government and Lord Mountbatten are probably more responsible for the carnage at Dieppe than Churchill was.

    Genuine Churchillian disasters, from big to small: Singapore, Greece, Norway, Tobruk, Burma, Hong Kong, Java Sea, Kos & Leros and Operations Brevity/Battle Axe. There were many more defeats during Churchill's time in office, but he is not directly responsible for things like the loss of Crete or the Fall of France.
    "All passion is lost now. The world is mediocre, limp, without force. And madness and despair are a force. And force is a crime in the eyes of the fools, the weak and the silly who rule the roost." - Joseph Conrad

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