The Road to Oran
Anglo-French Naval Relations, September 1939-July 1940
By David Brown
Foreword by Contre-Admiral Jean Kessler
Routledge – 2004 – 256 pages
On 3 July 1940, soon after the collapse of the French front and France's request for an armistice, a reluctant Royal Navy commander opened fire on the French Navy squadron at Mers-el-Kebir. Some 1,300 French sailors lost their lives.
The late David Brown's detailed account finally conveys an objective understanding of the course of events that led up to this tragedy. This new book makes extensive use of primary sources such as correspondence, reports and signals traffic, from the British Cabinet to the admirals, the commanders-in-chief and the liaison officers.
It shows how the driving force behind this extraordinary event was the British government's determination that the French Fleet would never fall into the hands of the Axis powers. A combination of mistrust, dissembling, poor communications and outright enmity over the preceding month had catastrophic results, both for the individuals concerned and for the future of Franco-British naval relations.
Foreword by Contre-Admiral Jean Kessler Preface Dramatis Personae Introduction 1. Anglo-French Naval Staff Planning and Co-operation on the Eve of War 2. The Phoney War 3. The Mediterranean, 27 March-27 May 1940 4. Dunkirk to Bordeaux, 1-15 June 5. Political Collapse, 16 June 24 6. Pétain's First Day, 17 June 29 7. Last Meeting of the Admirals, 18 June 8. Bordeaux, 19-21 June: Armistice or Africa? 9. The Other Side of the Hill, 17-21 June 50 10. The Terms, 22 June 11. 23 June 12. 24 June 13. The Armistice, 25 June 14. The Cruise of the Richelieu, 25-26 June 15. 27 June 16. 28 June 17. 29 June 18. 30 June 19. 1 July 20. The Orders for Operation 'Catapult', 2 July 21. Mers el-Kébir: The parley, 3 July 22. The Bombardment of Mers el-Kebir, 3 July
The late David Brown was head of the Naval Historical Branch at the Ministry of Defence, London, for over 25 years. He is author of many books on naval history.