French fleet scuttled! (11-27-42)

Brooklyn Eagle (November 27, 1942)

French fleet is scuttled

63 warships blown up as Hitler seizes Toulon

The French battleship Strasbourg Blown up

The French battleship Dunkerque Destroyed

London, England (UP) –
The pride of the French battlefleet, headed by the 26,500-ton Strasbourg, was blown up and scuttled in Toulon Harbor today, according to French reports, to prevent it falling into the hands of Adolf Hitler.

Havas dispatches broadcast by the Vichy radio revealed that the Strasbourg was blown up with a mighty explosion when Nazi forces, acting on Hitler’s orders, scrapped the last vestige of the Franco-German armistice and raced into Toulon today.

The example set by the Strasbourg crew – presumably at the cost of many of their own lives – was followed quickly by the other ships of the French armada which lay in Toulon Harbor.

Earlier reports had it that part of the French fleet had been seized by the Nazis after they occupied the city of Toulon.

It appeared that while Hitler’s sudden maneuver had kept the French fleet out of Allied hands, it had also denied him any hope of using the ships himself.

The Havas dispatches reported the ships now lie sunken at their anchorages in the debris-filled Toulon Harbor.

The action of the French crews apparently sent to the bottom the greatest naval tonnage which had been scuttled since the day that the German crews of the Imperial Navy sank their ships at Scapa Flow rather than allow them to be turned over to the Allies at the end of World War I.

In Toulon, at last reports, were the battleships Strasbourg, Dunkerque and Provence, seven cruisers, a seaplane carrier, 25 destroyers and 27 submarines.

Ship and shore guns open up

All of these ships, according to the Havas reports, were sunk by their crews while Nazi bombers roared over the harbor dropping magnetic mines, flares and bombing the harbor fortifications.

German panzer columns at that moment were racing into the town, smashing resistance wherever it was encountered. Havas reported that many casualties were caused as real fighting developed.

French gun crews both ashore and afloat opened up with their anti-aircraft guns against the Nazi bombers.

Some of the ships attempted to make a gateway to sea but it was not believed any succeeded.

Captains go down with their ships

Havas reported that “most of the French captains” and many crew members went down with their ships to their deaths.

Havas said:

At the end of the day – a terrible and sad day – there was the spectacle of all these beautiful warships, the pride of France, lying on their sides with thick clouds of smoke rising from them.

The courage of the sailors of the French fleet was emulated by their comrades ashore manning the coastal defense batteries. When they saw that resistance would not hold off the German attack, they spiked their guns and blew up the magazines.

Turn guns on own vessels

Some of the French crews – finding that their ships could not be scuttled due to repairs in progress – turned their own guns on each other, smashing and damaging the warships so they would be useless to the Germans.

At nightfall tonight, the French reports said, the ships still lay blazing and the dull boom of intermittent explosions echoed over the harbor as flames gradually ate their way into sunken magazines.

The naval arsenal, said these reports, was blown up and destroyed by the French before Nazi troops could enter it.

The self-destruction of the French fleet was accomplished within a few hours of a decision by Hitler to toss into the discard all previous commitments to France and to place the nation under a military regime that appeared to differ little, if at all, from that imposed on all the other conquered nations of Europe.

Hitler orders seizure of Toulon

Charging that the French Armed Forces were riddled with pro-Allied supporters and that the French fleet was preparing a dash to sea to join the Allies, Hitler ordered Toulon taken over and the remainder of the French Army demobilized.

He gave Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, the Nazi commander in France, carte blanche instructions to take any and all measures necessary for total control of France.

The reaction, if any, of the Vichy regime to these developments was not obvious. A cabinet meeting was called, but its only decision was to deprive of French citizenship Gen. Henri Giraud and Adm. Jean François Darlan.

Others may join Allies

It seemed possible tonight that Hitler’s action and the courageous stand of the French seamen might bring over to the Allies the long-demobilized portions of the French fleet in British harbors and at Alexandria.

German and Italian troops marched on Toulon during the night, German announcements revealed.

There was a hint in the German communiqué that fighting might still be in progress in the Toulon area, but the Nazis insisted that the town and harbor were now “firmly in the hands of our troops.”

First news of the Nazi action was given to the French public in a broadcast by Radio Vichy, in which a letter by Adolf Hitler to Marshal Henri Philippe Pétain explaining the Axis action was read.

Radio Vichy called on the public to remain calm.

Hitler issues order

The Germans ordered the immediate demobilization of the French fleet and, simultaneously, Hitler ordered Pétain to demobilize the remaining units of the French Army.

Hitler declared in his letter to Pétain that he had ordered the occupation of Toulon to prevent the ships from leaving and said he had ordered his troops to destroy the craft, if necessary, and “to break every resistance with the greatest force.”

Denies designs on fleet

In his letter to Pétain, Hitler denied that Germany had any designs on the French fleet or that he had asked France to hand it over.

Hitler said:

These assertions are pure inventions and continuous lies by British or American quarters.

The French people could live in peace except for sacrifices inflicted by their allies in raids by sea and air.

He asserted the Germans had released 700,000 French war prisoners and insisted that if the release of prisoners had been halted:

…it was only because in your country, insurgent elements always managed to sabotage real cooperation.

Holds Pétain blameless

He insisted that he had never made any demands impinging on French national honor and again rehearsed his familiar theories for the origin of the war.

Hitler said:

I know that you, Herr Marshal, had no part in this instigating of the war.

Italian troops as well as Germans marched into the French naval base city, the communiqué said, asserting that the taking over of the fleet had been agreed upon by both Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.

The Germans said that French commanders had completed plans to take their ships into the Mediterranean to join the Allies.

The French fleet is now being demobilized, the Nazi High Command said.

The High Command said:

The demobilization of unstable French formations is going on and will be finished in a short time.


What the fu… I did not see that coming…

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Aahh … I think I know the reason why they scuttled their ships.

Someone must have given the admiral a fried onion.

If you didn’t get the joke, don’t worry… The French explain it themselves…


Explains the French Onion Sellers in Allo Allo making a perfect disguise. I met Her Flick, Gruber and Helga IRL at the comic con and they were great! :slight_smile: ! French Onion Sellers 2 - YouTube


Völkischer Beobachter (November 28, 1942)

19 Schiffe mit 123.000 BRT. versenkt –
Klare Antwort auf neue Wortbrüche

Fluchtversuch der französischen Kriegsflotte vereitelt Unzuverlässige Verbände warden demobilisiert

Festung Toulon blitzartig besetzt

vb. Wien, 27. November –
Zwei bedeutsame Ereignisse kennzeichnen am Freitag die historische und politische Lage unseres Kontinents im Kampf um sein Lebensrecht. Während die durch Sondermeldung des OKW. bekanntgegebene Versenkung von 19 Feindschiffen mit insgesamt 123.000 BRT. zwischen dem Eismeer und dem Eingang zum Indischen Ozean eindringlich die Größe der europäischen Abwehrfront gegenüber den englisch-amerikanischen Raubgelüsten veranschaulicht, offenbart die vom Führer und vom Duce befohlene Besetzung des französischen Kriegsmarinehafens Toulon sowie die ins Werk gesetzte Demobilisierung der französischen Wehrmacht die Bedingungslosigkeit, mit der die Achsenmächte entschlossen sind, jedweden neuerlichen Versuch zu vereiteln, der diesen Kontinent noch einmal zur Basis englischer oder us.-amerikanischer imperialistischer Schachzüge machen möchte. Mit der blitzartigen Durchführung dieser Aktion ist die Achse einem neuen Verrat hoher französischer Befehlshaber, die einen Fluchtversuch der französischen Kriegsflotte vorbereiteten, zuvorgekommen.

Die militärischen Maßnahmen in Südfrankreich

Ferner gibt das Oberkommando der Wehrmacht bekannt:
Nach dem Überfall britisch-amerikanischer Streitkräfte auf das französische Kolonialgebiet rückten deutsche und italienische Truppen in das bis dahin unbesetzte Frankreich ein, um dieses gemeinsam mit der französischen Wehrmacht gegen weitere Übergriffe der britisch-amerikanischen Angreifer zu schützen.

Nach ehrenwörtlicher Verpflichtung französischer Truppen- und Flottenbefehlshaber, sich mit ihren Verbänden in den Rahmen der Gesamtverteidigung einzugliedern, wurde nach dem Willen des Führers die französische Wehrmacht nicht nur unangetastet gelassen, sondern zum Teil verstärkt und aufgerüstet sowie der besonders wichtige Festungsabschnitt Toulon mit der französischen Mittelmeerflotte selbständiger französischer Verteidigung überlassen.

In der Zwischenzeit haben sich die Ehrenwortbrüche und Fluchtversuche hoher französischer Offiziere gehäuft. Ebenso wurde erkennbar, daß eine systematische Verhetzung der zur Zusammenarbeit bereiten französischen Wehrmacht durch angelsächsische Einflüsse immer weiter um sich griff und in den letzten Tagen auch bei der Flotte in Toulon Eingang fand.

In der Erkenntnis, daß diese politische Spaltung der französischen Wehrmacht in zunehmendem Maße die Sicherheit der deutschen und italienischen Besatzungstruppen gefährdete und die Autorität der französischen Staatsführung untergrub, gaben der Führer und Duce in der vergangenen Nacht den Befehl, die Festung Toulon zu besetzen, die französische Mittelmeerflotte an der geplanten Ausfahrt zu verhindern und die unsicheren Kontingente der französischen Wehrmacht zu demobilisieren.

Deutsche und italienische Truppen haben diesem Befehl blitzartig Folge geleistet, den an einzelnen Stellen aufflammenden Widerstand durch angelsächsische Einwirkung verhetzter Elemente im Keime erstickt und in wenigen Stunden die gestellten Aufgaben durchgeführt. Stadt und Hafen Toulon sind seit den frühen Morgenstunden fest in der Hand unserer Truppen. Ein Teil der französischen Flotte hat sich trotz des Gegenbefehls der französischen Regierung versenkt. Die Demobilisation der zersetzten französischen Verbände ist im Gange und wird in Kürze durchgeführt sein.

The Pittsburgh Press (November 28, 1942)

Few vessels escape from Toulon base

Darlan keeps his pledge that Hitler won’t get Vichy fleet
By Edward W. Beattie, United Press staff writer

London, England –
Powerful French naval units neutralized at Alexandria, Egypt, and Gibraltar and based in Algeria, Morocco and Martinique were expected today to join Allied naval forces as the result of the German attack on Toulon.

Nazis seize air base

Meanwhile, Germany tightened its grip on the French Mediterranean coast, ordering the complete evacuation of the great air force base at Istres, near Toulon, the Paris radio reported.

Possession of the base would give the Germans a new defense stronghold which they might develop to resist any Allied attack on Corsica or Sardinia.

At Allied Headquarters in North Africa, an Allied spokesman announced that any ship of the French fleet would be welcomed at any Allied-held port on the African coast.

Darlan makes appeal

News was received that Adm. Jean François Darlan, French commander in Africa, made a radio appeal over the Algiers radio last night for French ships at sea to join the Allies, evidently believing that some were at large.

At that time, it was indicated, Darlan and Allied leaders were still uncertain of the extent of the scuttling.

Men of the Fighting French fleet already fighting with the Allies paraded in the French Admiralty courtyard here today and all Fighting Frenchmen observed a minute of silence in honor of the Toulon dead. Flags at the French Admiralty and Gen. Charles de Gaulle’s headquarters were at half-staff.

Toulon reported quiet

A Vichy Havas dispatch reported Toulon quiet this morning, with streetcars running, after a night in which explosions shook houses and damaged many of them as ammunition exploded in dumps and explosives detonated in scuttled ships. A pall of smoke hung over the city so thick, Havas said, there it was in semi-darkness.

Reports reached neutral Switzerland and Spain that the men of the Toulon fleet put up a desperate and gallant six-hour fight to keep the Germans off their ships, and that they mowed down with their machine guns all German and Italian troops who approached.

Madrid said Axis columns reached the dock where the battleship Strasbourg was anchored and an Italo-German storming party tried to board the ship but were repelled by machine-gun fire. They watched, impotent, while the ship was blown up, dispatches said.

Some try to escape

Adm. Jean de Laborde, commanding the fleet, hastily summoned a group of trusted young officers to pass the word along to “carry out Plan B” – which was for every commander to try to get away with his own ship and, if he failed, to blow it up.

Some vessels tried to get up steam but were attacked by German planes, the Spanish advices said.

The main batteries of the battleships exploded, Madrid reported, with the result that it was believed most of the men aboard were killed.

According to these dispatches, for six hours, the Italians and Germans tried again and again to storm various French ships, but failed and by 10 a.m. yesterday, all that remained of a proud fleet was the few masts and one turret of the battleship Dunkerque which stuck up from the water.

Swiss dispatches said the Germans, fighting through Toulon in tanks and armored cars, attacked the port with submachine guns and headed for the ships while German planes roared overhead.

It was asserted, on the basis of Vichy Havas Agency dispatches, that when the Germans made for the ships which were not scuttled at first, the French machine-gun crews turned machine guns on them and killed many.

The Swiss dispatches indicated that two submarines at least got away, but said a third, which tried to escape, was blown up by a magnetic mine which German planes had laid.

Street fighting reported

The dispatches quoted Havas News Agency as reporting that many persons were killed in street fighting at Toulon.

These reports, which largely quoted the Havas Agency and thus were received here with reserve, indicated that not a single ship remained for the Germans to capture and that in addition, all shore batteries, naval installations, ammunition and fuel dumps and depots were destroyed.

A Vichy communiqué broadcast by the German radio said:

November 27 is a new mourning day for the French Navy. One cannot think without emotion of the proud ships of our Navy, now defenseless wrecks… It is all the more painful for Frenchmen because this is the result of lack of dignity by certain leaders who betrayed their country and broke their oath.

De Gaulle broadcasts

Gen. de Gaulle, leader of the Fighting French, broadcasting here, said:

Our fleet has been scuttled so that the nation might at least be spared the supreme share of seeing her ships become ships of the enemy. Though this tragedy has been added to so many tragedies, France stands united – yes, united – in her determination to wipe out all the atrocious consequences of disaster and betrayal. On to victory! There is no other road and there never was.

At Algiers, Darlan said:

It was easy to foresee that the granting of free zone status to Toulon was only a German trap to get French vessels under the control of German guns.

‘Sole hope of France’

On Nov. 11, I invited the fleet to leave Toulon. By not doing so, its officers thought they would save their ships. They lost them and caused the deaths of many officers, soldiers and sailors…

French Africa is the only place in the world where our flag flies freely, where the Army carried its arms, where the Fleet has its flags hoisted and where the Air Force can freely use its wings. We are the sole hope of France and we must show ourselves worthy of her.

It was believed here that the scuttling of the fleet, if confirmed officially, would strengthen Darlan’s position and do much to appease his critics. He had promised the Allies that the fleet would not aid the Axis.

Laval increases power

The Vichy radio, after some hours of silence, resumed service last night under German control and gave the French public the first announcement that French West Africa had gone over to the Allies days before.

Stockholm heard reports that Pierre Laval had taken advantage of France’s new ordeal to increase his own power.

According to these reports, he succeeded in getting Marshal Henri Philippe Pétain to authorize him to alter the Vichy Constitution as he chose without consulting Pétain.

He had previously got Pétain to sign a decree dissolving the French Armed Forces, as the Germans demanded.

Army garrisons quiet

Germany reported that army garrisons were quiet throughout France. It said disarmament of the army would be effected in two stages. The first, the actual disarmament of soldiers, was completed Friday night by “German commandos,” Berlin said. The full demobilization, including the paying off of men, would be the second stage, it was said.

The German reports indicated that the Garde Mobile, the National Police, and other semi-military police organizations in addition to Pétain’s personal guards, would not be demobilized.

Hitler rejects compromise

By saying that the Vichy Cabinet Secretaries for Army, Navy and Air were expected to remain in office “until French authorities have carried out demobilization,” it was implied that Adolf Hitler would not even permit Vichy to retain these departments.

Marcel Déat, French Quisling editor, wrote today in his newspaper L’Oeuvre of Paris, according to the Nazi Paris radio:

France is now in the same position as Germany after its defeat in the last war. We do not need to regret the parade army which Vichy kept. That was not an army. We will build a true one if the Vichy people have the sense to find the right words to answer the words addressed to Marshal Pétain by the uncontested chief leader of Europe. [presumably Hitler]


Editorial: Destruction for victory

The soul of a free France rises Phoenix-like from the pyre of her fleet at Toulon.

All the details have not yet become clear. But from German and Vichy French sources, enough has been made known to immortalize the officers and men who made the great decision. More than two years after the panzer hordes overran France itself, these men took the final, desperate step in defense of “liberty, equality and fraternity.”

We here in America know the lift to our spirits this French act of self-sacrifice has inspired. How much greater then must be the exaltation the people of France feel today. From behind that impenetrable wall erected by the invader, direct reports of their reaction cannot reach us now. But even the families of those seamen upon whom reprisals will be taken by the outraged Nazis – even they, we believe, will be grateful.

Depriving Hitler of the fleet hastens the day of Allied victory; hastening of that day speeds French liberation. And when France once more is free, all men will be free.

The shambles of Toulon Harbor is a signal victory.

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If they do switch… Boy oh boy… Vichy France will only exist on paper then.


Spoiler alert, he remained the head of uuuhh… nothing and won a free stay in Fort de Pierre Levée on some Atlantic Island just off the coast off LA Rochelle. The French were not to worried that he would swim to the mainland and raise French Armies again like Napoleon :wink:

BBC - History - Historic Figures: Philippe Pétain (1856 - 1951)


Battlecruiser Battleship STRASBOURG

Heavy cruiser COLBERT

Light cruiser MARSEILLAISE

destroyer MOGADOR

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Pretty sure it’s a battleship.

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You’re right ! I edited it :slight_smile:

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He doesn’t return and become Napolean part 2?? 0/10. Worst war ever.

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If I’m totally honest, I only know names of some of the ships in the Marine Nationale because they have pixel analogues in World of Warships (where MN Strasbourg is a useful ship in “Operation Narai”, which happens to be the weekly op right now).


LOL, games are great at gaining knowledge. When I worked in the Carribean (Aruba)I noticed that I knew the names and location of most of the islands from playing pirates. :slight_smile: . And when I was in Normandy I asked at the girl working there “is that Fort de Roul” I knew it from playing close combat 5 ( I kind of hey that is the real one).


The Pittsburgh Press (November 29, 1942)

French submarine escapes Toulon, arrives in Spain

By Edward W. Beattie, United Press staff writer

London, England – (Nov. 28)
Arrival at Barcelona, Spain, of a French submarine from Toulon bolstered hope today that more submarines and perhaps surface units had escaped the scuttling of the French fleet and might join Allied naval forces in North Africa.

The submarine, named the Iris, which was given 24 hours to leave Barcelona or be interned, was the first French warship known definitely to have escaped Toulon. It was believed that, rather than undergo internment, it might attempt to run down the Spanish coast to Gibraltar, 550 miles Away, or cross to any one of several Allied ports in French North Africa, the closest of which is Algiers, 260 miles due south.

Radio Vichy reported that three destroyers were intact in Toulon. During the fighting, the broadcast said, two persons were killed and 27 were wounded in the Toulon fortress.

Allied authorities announced that they were prepared to give all assistance needed by any French warship seeking haven from the Axis.

British warships cruised likely areas of the Mediterranean in search for French ships, which would have to weave through waters dangerously infested with Axis submarines.

The scuttling of the French fleet, which the Nazis said had been complete, crushed Adolf Hitler’s hope of making some advantage of the Italian fleet, if it dares emerge for battle, exposed to the full attention of British naval units.

It also paved the way for full cooperation with the Allies by French warships based at North Africa and Atlantic possessions of France and enhanced the prestige of Adm. Jean François Darlan, who, in a proclamation broadcast by Radio Morocco, asserted that Hitler made Toulon a “free zone” only as a “trap to have the [French] vessels under control of German guns.

The North African situation was discussed at No. 10 Downing St., today when Gen. Charles de Gaulle, leader of the Fighting French, and Gen. Georges Catroux, recently arrived from Syria, lunched with Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

It was reported that Gen. de Gaulle, who has expressed strong opposition to Darlan’s commanding position in North Africa, would leave soon for the United States.

The internal political situation in France, as result of Hitler’s attempt to seize the fleet, demobilization of the French Army and occupation of all France, was obscured in Nazi-controlled radio reports.

Press reports in London said all members of the Vichy government, except Marshal Henri Philippe Pétain, titular Chief of State, and Pierre Laval, Chief of Government, had been dismissed.

Radio Vichy, under German control, mentioned speculation that Pétain’s failure to preside over a French cabinet meeting had something to do with his attitude toward “recent events,” but other Axis broadcasts said Pétain did not show up at the meeting because it was considered desirable not to disturb him, an indication that he may not even have been informed of it.

Admiral may be dead

One Vichy broadcast said Pétain and Laval were “collaborating in full harmony.” The Nazis also said that Joseph Barthelemy, French Minister of Justice whom they had previously hinted was splitting with Laval, was now supporting him.

There were also conflicting reports as to the fate of Adm. Jean de Laborde, commander of the French fleet at Toulon. One report from Paris said the admiral had left the sinking battleship Strasbourg at the last minute on Pétain’s order. A Madrid report said he had died aboard the flagship Dunkerque, to which he went directly after issuing orders that the fleet be scuttled.

The BBC said in its French language service that Adm. de Laborde had been arrested by the Nazis.

In London, sailors and officers of the Fighting French Navy paraded in the French Admiralty courtyard and observed one minute of silence for the sailors at Toulon. Flags were flown at half-staff over headquarters of the Admiralty and Gen. de Gaulle.

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On November 30, 1942, escaped from Toulon in the early morning of the 27th just before the scuttling of the fleet, the submarines CASABIANCA and MARSOUIN rally Algiers to continue the fight within the FNFL.



The French could have, before their surrender to Germany, transferred their fleet to England. They could have also transferred to England the German pilots they had shot down and captured. Instead, England had to defend itself against the French fleet. England could have used the French fleet to help it fight the U-boats in the Atlantic and by keeping the German pilots as POW’s would have prevented them from getting back in the air to attack England. But after the French surrender and those pilots being repatriated back to Germany, England had to shoot them down and capture them all over again during the battle of Britain. No wonder that after France (and Denmark) surrendered both Churchill and even George supposedly said something like that, " while losing those allies was sad at least now England only has to fight against the Axis, rather than our allies as well."


“There is only one thing worse than fighting with allies, and that is to fight without them.” WSC