England's Last War Against France: Fighting Vichy 1940-42

Discussion in 'Books, Films, TV, Radio' started by Owen, Jun 21, 2010.

  1. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Anyone read this yet?
    Looks quite an interesting read, tempted to get it & read it on a French beach this summer.
    England's Last War Against France: Fighting Vichy 1940-42
    Colin Smith

    Attached Files:

    AlanDavid likes this.
  2. martin14

    martin14 Senior Member


    You provoke everyone, or some more special than others ? :D
  3. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    As the 3rd July sees the 70th anniversary of the attack on the French fleet at Mers-el-Kebir, I thought I'd better order this now & start reading up on it pdq.
  4. DelBoy

    DelBoy Member

    England (as an individual country) hasn't been at war with anyone since before 1707. Or is this the outdated usage of England that churchill too, meaning the UK?

    The Union flag is emblazoned along the top of the book cover which makes it even more bizarre.
  5. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Hot air manufacturer

    Ahhh, England...

    Edward III then laid siege to Calais in order to be ready to return to England if necessary, and on the capitulation of the town ordered the six richest citizens to come forth with halters round their necks and wearing only their shorts, and to surrender all the keys in the city. The inhabitants therefore at once appointed the six chief burglars of Calais and Edward agreed with this, romantically commanding that they should be put to death as soon as they came in. His Queen, however, pointed out what a much more romantic thing it would be to pardon them and make them barons inm the Exchequer. Edward therefore pardoned them in spite of his private feelings that the original plan was more romantic still.
    Alter this Edward had all the wool in England kept in a stable at Calais instead of in a sack in the House of Commons; this was a Bad Thing, as it was the beginning of Political Economy.


    So, going past the title, what is the rest of the book like?
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  6. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    So, going past the title, what is the rest of the book like?
    Dunno, still waiting for it, was posted on 30th June.....:unsure:

    edit: hoorah! it arrived 2 minutes ago.
  7. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Delboy, I will explain why it's called England's Last war later tonight, briefly the author raises your point in a note at start of book.
    It's to do with how the French view their old enemy England, rather than their more neutral view of Britain as a whole , as a Scot you'll be aware of the Auld Alliance between Scotland & France.
    The author also mentions the French refer to the UK-USA alliance as those 'Anglo-Saxons'.

    As for the book, I like it, it even has a cover from a 1979 edition of Victor comic about a RSF chap who was awarded the MC after being commended by his French enemy.
    I remember reading that as a lad back then.
    One thing I have picked up as Free-French soldier is labelled as carring a British bren, it's not it's a FM 24/29.

    Oh well, tea break over back to work.....
  8. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    I have to share this quote, our American members will like it as it was their Ambassador that inflicted the Wehrmacht's first defeat in 1940.( That bit is a joke, no need to pick me up on it.)
    "....the military government was staying next door in the Prince of Wales suite at the Hotel Crillon next door to the embassy building . When some German linesmen strayed onto the embassy roof while installing secure field telephone connections , Bullitt responded to this gross violation of US turf by threatening to shoot the trespassers himself. The Wehrmacht , who knew the whole world was watching what they did in Paris , beat a hasty retreat from this enraged neutral, probably the first territory they had conceded all summer."
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  9. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    I do like this book.
    I've now reached the fighting for Palmyra, June 1941.
    A battle I first read about only a couple of years ago in the Wilts Yeomanry history.
    The Syrian campaign is a totally forgotten campaign.
    The author does make a point that while Operation Barbarossa is taking place , Russian and German Legionaires are fighting side by side for Vichy against the British & Commonwealth troops.
    A Scottish Legionaire is also mentioned in another battle from one Veteran's recollections. The Jock had siddled up to a PoW & in a broad Scottish accent told the PoW that he'd been firing high so not to inflict casulaties on the British troops.
  10. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  11. Warlord

    Warlord Veteran wannabe

    Just stumbled upon this thread, and have to say that this is a good one, in that it covers a lot of forgotten, intentionally or not, battles fought between previously close allies.

    Sadly, some technical detail just does not match the truth (mentioned in some detail in a pair of reviews at Amazon.com), but apart from these small blemishes, the book delivers.
  12. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Perhaps readers can help and this appears to be the best thread on this campaign here.

    Awhile ago I read that Vichy France was able to send considerable reinforcements to Syria from the North African garrisons before the British & Allied attack on Syria. Silly me forgot to keep the reference. My recollection is that the numbers were in the thousands and they went by sea.

    Troop transportation by sea was the main method of moving troops and material, although I noted elsewhere today Vichy was able to fly via Italy (the Dodecanese Islands it held) and German-held Greece (Crete may be).

    I see that this: Syria–Lebanon campaign - Wikipedia refers to:
  13. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

  14. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Back to my small puzzle about Vichy France being able to send considerable reinforcements to Syria from the North African garrisons before the British & Allied attack on Syria, in June 1941.

    Post 1 in the linked thread refers to a British Army POW escaping on July 16th 1940, boarding a boat at Marseilles on November 16th 1940, landing at Beirut five days later.

    This intrigues me:
    In Post 6 his debriefing report adds:
    From: 56733 Major-General Sir Derek Boileau LANG, KCB, DSO, MC, MiD*, Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders

    Wiki indicates the Allies recognised Vichy France, although in September 1940 Vichy aircraft twice bombed Gibraltar. See: Military history of Gibraltar during World War II - Wikipedia
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2022
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  15. Richelieu

    Richelieu Well-Known Member

    To simplify a complex subject David, I think that the key to understanding this is to recognise that, notwithstanding the book’s title and all the bloodshed, the British Empire and Vichy France were never actually at war. Following the armistice, France officially became a neutral with regard to Britain, subject to the same contraband controls as other neutrals.

    In practice, partly as a result of confused political leadership, support for the Free French movement and an aggressive pursuit of Britain’s strategic objectives, waves of hostilities broke out. During the lulls, British warships did intercept and search French vessels, but if they were not demonstrably aiding the Axis they would be allowed to resume their passage.
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  16. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron


    Thanks, your explanation makes sense. Now a short time ago I read a new book on the campaign in East Africa and there was almost no mention of French Somaliland (now Djibouti). I really should read 'England's Last War Against France: Fighting Vichy 1940-42' by Colin Smith (in the opening post).
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2022
  17. papiermache

    papiermache Well-Known Member

    Meanwhile, or a few months later, the Japanese were preparing to invade Malaya, assisted by Vichy.

    See here:

    IMTFE Exhibit 657

    Document No. 1030

    Page 1

    Vichy, 29 July 1941.

    Your Excellency,

    With regard to the protocol signed today by our two governments, I beg to request Your Excellency to confirm to me the agreement of the French Government to the following proposals:

    (1) The French Government grants to Japan the right to take the following measures:

    (a) The despatching into South French Indo-China of Japanese troops, naval craft and air forces in a number judged necessary.

    (b) Use of the following 8 places: SIEMREAP, PHNOHPENH, TOURANE, NHATRANG, BIENHOA, SAIGON, SOCTRANG and KOMPONGTRACH as airbases; and SAIGON and the Bay of CAMRANH as naval bases. The Japanese forces shall construct necessary facilities at the above-mentioned places.

    (c) The above-mentioned Japanese troops shall be given the right of quartering, maneuvering and drilling and the freedom of their movement shall be recognized. Similarly, they shall be given special facilities for the accomplishment of their tasks. This includes the abolition of various restrictions stipulated in the NISHIMARA-MARTIN agreement.

    (d) The French Government shall furnish the necessary currency to the above-mentioned Japanese troops according to the modalities to be decided in common. For this year the amount of this currency shall reach 23,000,000 Indo-Chinese piastres, or about 4,500,000 Indo-Chinese piastres monthly. This amount shall not include the currency to be furnished to the Japanese troops in TONKIN, as stipulated in the previous agreements. The Japanese Government is ready to pay for the above-mentioned currency, at the choice of the French Gove:rnment, in free Yen, American dollar, or in gold.

    Doc. No. 1030 Page 2

    (2) The French Government shall give its consent to the general principles of the entry of the above-mentioned Japanese troops and take all effective measures for the avoiding of any unexpected conflict with the Indo-Chinese troops.

    (3) The details concerning the movements of the Japanese troops shall be discussed and decided between the Japanese and French military authorities on the spot. I take this opportunity to pay again my respects to your Excellency.

    Yours sincerely

    Checked by: SADAYASU Mitoichi.

    Translated by: K. SOMA.

    Protocol between France and the Japanese Empire concerning the Joint Defense of French Indo-China.

    Signed at Vichy on 29 July, ( 1941 ), the 16th year of SHOWA.
    Put into effect on the same day of the same year.
    Promulgated ( in the August 2nd issue of Gazette ) on the 1st August, (1941), the 16th year of SHOWA.

    The Imperial Japanese Government and the French Government.
    Taking into consideration the present international situation.
    Recognizing that in consequence, in case the security of French Indo-China is menaced, Japan will have the reason to consider that the general tranquillity in East Asia and her own security are in danger.

    Renewing on this occasion the engagements taken, on the one hand by Japan to respect the rights and interests of France in East Asia and especially the territorial integrity of French Indo-China and the sovereign rights of France in all parts of the Indo-Chinese Union, and on the other hand by France not to conclude in respect to Indo-China any agreement or understanding with a third power anticipating political, economic and military cooperation of a nature opposing Japan directly or indirectly.

    Have concluded the following arrangements:

    Document No. 1030 Page 3.

    (1) The two governments promise to cooperate militarily for the joint defense of French Indo-China.

    (2) The measure to be taken for the purpose of this cooperation shall be the object of special arrangements.

    (3) The above arrangements shall remain effective only as long as the circumstances which constituted the motive for their adoption exist.

    In witness whereof, the undersigned, duly authorized by their respective Governments, have signed this Protocol which shall be enforced from this day, and have affixed their seals.

    KATO Sotomatus (seal)

    F. Darlan (seal)

    We, after consultation with the Privy Councillors, sanction and hereby promulgate the Protocol between Japan and France concerning the Joint Defense of French Indo-China, which was signed on July 29, 1941 at Vichy by our Envoy Extrordinary and Ambassador Plenipotentiary and by the representative of France.

    August 1, 1941.

    His Majesty the Emperor

    Counter-signed by:

    Premier Fumimaro KONOYE,

    War Minister Hideki TOJO,

    Navy Minister Koshiro OIKAWA,

    Foreign Minister Taijiro TOYODA.
  18. Ewen Scott

    Ewen Scott Well-Known Member

    Assisted? Probably too strong a term in the circumstances with little hope of home support.

    This was the final step in Japanese actions that began on 19 June 1940, a week before the French surrender, targeted initially on closing the route to the Chinese border from the then Indochinese port of Haiphong. That led to the Japanese occupation in Sept 1940 of the northern Tonkin region of modern day Vietnam.
    Japanese invasion of French Indochina - Wikipedia

    The French in Indochina did fight a short war against Thailand between Oct 1940 and Jan 1941 as the Thai Govt sought to exploit France’s weakened position to grab disputed border territories on what is now the Thailand / Cambodian / Laos border region. That included a naval victory in the Battle of Koh Chang. Ultimately the Japanese stepped in to mediate a solution in an attempt to curry favour with both sides and to protect its own interests. The French agreed to give up some territory but not enough to satisfy the Thais who began to turn towards Britain and the USA for support. Ultimately the Japanese invaded Thailand along with Malaya in Dec 1941.
    Franco-Thai War - Wikipedia
    Battle of Ko Chang - Wikipedia
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  19. Ewen Scott

    Ewen Scott Well-Known Member

    A bit more complicated from the British perspective given subsequent actions against the French fleet in June 1940. Those air raids were retaliation for those actions at Dakar and Mers el Kebir and the disarming of ships at Alexandria. Per Wiki the French broke off diplomatic relations with Britain, but not other allied countries in July 1940.
    Foreign relations of Vichy France - Wikipedia

    The bad feeling between Britain and Vichy continued up to Operation Torch in Nov 1942. When negotiations took place between US (Gen Mark Clark) and French generals in Oct 1942, the submarine HMS Seraph that carried them was temporarily “transferred” to US Command so as not to upset the French. A US officer was appointed to command her, although for all practical purposes her RN CO remained in charge of the RN crew and she flew the US ensign. For Torch, RN Carrier aircraft were repainted with US stars, as it was again felt that the US would receive a warmer reception than those perfidious British who had attempted to sink the French fleet in 1940.
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  20. Richelieu

    Richelieu Well-Known Member

    I agree with Ewen, the position in Indochina calls for some perspective.

    At the time of the armistice there was a French garrison in Indochina of about 50,000 men, of a typical colonial composition, a small naval squadron and a token air force, quite incapable of resisting any serious Japanese aggression. Japan seized upon this weakness to extort concessions from the existing Governor-General, General Georges Catroux who after leaving Indochina declared for de Gaulle and would become his High Commissioner in the Levant after EXPORTER.

    Catroux’s replacement, Admiral Jean Decoux, appointed by Vichy, was for resisting further demands but in practice there was little that Vichy could do beyond moving some troops from its other colonies which would provide little real deterrent, and more concessions were granted. On their own initiative, Decoux and the military commander, General Maurice Martin, made approaches to America, Britain and China in a forlorn attempt to bolster their defences. In late September the Japanese exceeded these concessions inducing a brief military resistance from the French.

    Japan sat on the sidelines during the Franco-Thai war, fought over the winter of 1940-41, watching the depletion of both combatants’ forces, before imposing its own ceasefire terms. By the time the treaty quoted came into effect France was effectively powerless to prevent Japan from taking whatever it wanted.

    P.S. Thanks for that link.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2022
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