Operation Catapult: Death To The French! - Marine Nationale🇫🇷
— - — - —
By September 1939, the French Navy (Marine Nationale) was the fourth navy in the world, displacing 554'442 tons with 176 warships; an aircraft carrier and a large seaplane tender, two battlecruisers, five battleships (a sixth nearing completion and a seventh in construction), seven heavy cruisers, twelve light cruisers, thirty-two destroyers, seventy-eight submarines and numerous auxiliaries. At this stage, the French navy was fairly modern (except the battleships and the aircraft carrier) and was about to go through a large rearmament program which would have allowed the French to fight both the Kriegsmarine and the Regia Marina at the same time. Generally speaking, French ships were well-built and fast but short-ranged, lightly armed and lightly armoured compared to their contemporaries, and they lacked radars and sonars.
Under the authority of the Admiral of the Fleet François Darlan, the French Navy was well organised, well trained and the moral was high. French warships often sailed with the Royal Navy and cooperation with the British was good (the Allied naval strategy will be covered in the next post). The French Navy helped in the hunt of German commerce raiders, protected convoys and assisted the British during the Dunkirk evacuation.
Some of the finest and most modern French warships were assembled into a single unit, the Force de Raid (Raiding Force), which was composed of the two battlecruisers Dunkerque and Strasbourg, three light cruisers and eight destroyers. Another fleet, the Force X, was operating in the Mediterranean with the Royal Navy and was composed of one battleship, three heavy and one light cruisers, and two destroyers. Other warships were either operating with the Royal Navy or escorting convoys. At the time of the Armistice, French vessels were dispatched in French or British harbours, or at sea. They all came under the control of the Vichy regime and their fate will be covered later, especially the one of the Force de Raid and Force X.
— - — - —