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The French Air Force of the armistice.

by Philippe Ballarini
translation Mike Leveillard

3. Dakar.

Despite the deadly tragedy of Mers el-Kébir, it was strictly an affair between England and France. For de Gaulle's fighting spirit, London was only a temporary solution. It was important for him that "… the seat of the French government desiring to continue the fight be located on French territory." (July 15th 1940). Dakar was chosen on the initiative of Winston Churchill to prevent the risk of Dakar becoming a German base. It must be remembered that early on, a large number of French territories away from the homeland had opted for insubordination against Vichy. India, Polynesia, and New Caledonia had led the way. Félix Ébroué Chad's Governor brought the entire French Equatorial Africa to rally with de Gaulle. In three days, from the 26th to the 28th of July 1940, the movement that had started in Chad was followed by the Cameroon, the Congo, and the Oubangui-Chari. Only the Gabon was late to participate, joining the rally only after harsh battles between the forces loyal to Vichy and those of the free French had occurred.

Vichy could not in any case accept the dismembering of its legitimate territory and let the contagion reach French Occidental Africa. When the British ships arrived in front of Dakar for an invasion on September 23rd 1940, conditions were a lot different than those at Mers el-Kébir. An airplane (a Caudron Luciole) had brought in some free French in an attempt to rally the base of Ouakam to their cause. They were promptly arrested. The British landing troops which included 2400 Free French were repulsed by the French troops loyal to Vichy, even after a bombardment of the city and the harbor by the British navy.

The aircraft carrier
Ark Royal had brought in 21 fighters and 30 torpedo airplanes. The French Air Force of the armistice entered the action on September 23rd, intercepting British airplanes dropping leaflets. The next day they attacked some Fairey Swordfish, torpedo airplanes that were flying over the harbor and some Glenn Martins attacked the vessels for two hours. Lasting until September 7th, the French Air Force of the armistice flew 81 sorties, repulsing the British in their attempt to take Dakar. After Mers el-Kébir, Dakar was the largest operation for the French Air Force of the armistice. They lost one Curtiss H-75A and five other airplanes were more or less severely damaged. The "Glenns" had dropped six tons of bombs on the ships of the Royal Navy.

©
Aerostories, 2001.

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Charles de Gaulle and Félix Éboué.

Félix Éboué played a fundamental role in rallying Chad and all of French Equatorial Africa to the free French movement, a movement of insubordination against Vichy.
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A shotdown British Fairey Swordfish "fished" out of the water near Tranoye and brought in the airplane depot.
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L'Illustration Document (October 26th  1940)