Churchill's darkest decision

It seems the 'Historians' Jury is still out on this one...from I what I know of it, he (Churchill) played safe...and made the right (albeit painful) decision. Wonder what History in the year 2050 will be saying about this unfortunate episode?


Lantern Swinger
I imagine a pretty tough time for the officers and men of the RN who had to carry out the bombardment. As you say though, probably the right call.


War Hero
Book Reviewer
A necessary act to preserve our freedom until such time as America might see the light.

Darlan's 'promise' was worthless since at any time he might have been superseded/sacked/killed and then other orders could have been given, the ships then coming under effective Nazi control in Toulon even if there was a figleaf argument that they were not. War crime? rubbish.

Darlan was assassinated shortly after the invasion of N Africa but his assassin was not protected and was executed, thereby taking the background to his act to the grave.

If anything went wrong it was Somerville's failure to sink the Strasbourg. This MAY be attributable to the fact that at his age the want of sleep over the previous 48 hours may (in my speculative view) have undermined his determination, and it does seem his heart was not in the job which shows a want of strategic grasp. He was a bit of a pain in the backside to Mountbatten later on, again (in my view) a failure to see the bigger picture.

Re the rest of Catapult, when Whaley dined out Captain Wells in 1963 he gave an account of having to take a platoon of sailors down to the dockyard to take over a Fr battleship (Courbet I think). This went smoothly, no doubt to his relief. Said BB was later used in AA defence of Portsmouth.

Fr submarine Surcouf, 360 feet long with two 8-inch guns and an aircraft, was lost in the English Channel in 1942 and there is speculation over this as to whether her CO was truly on side against Hitler. Finding and rasing her wreck could be interesting.
The trouble with history is that you have to be careful not to look at it with 21st century eyes, I am sure the decision was painful but necessary given that we were at war.
Hate to see any sailors killed but it was right.There was a danger of the Germans getting these ships and lets not forget when the Commandos[150] went ashore at N.Africa then over 80 were killed,by French Troops!
Half of France was Vichy,the other half produced some fine soldiers.
My father,cut up badly at Dunkirk,would not have got off the beach had not a load of French soldiers not fought a magnificent rearguard action to help us.
If only they were more consistant and didn't hate the English so much, he would not have sunk the ships,we needed them, as did Hitler!

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