« Traffic Warden | Main | Injecting Sense »

French Fighting Men

Blackfive - The Paratrooper of Love asks about the French Fighting Forces.

It reminded me of one the scraps the Old Man had been involved in; The following is "researched" from oob_operation_exporter_1941

Please go to the site for a full story - this is just a taster.

Exporter was the British code-name for their invasion of Vichy French Syria in June 1941. The attack was prompted by the recent Vichy decision to supply the anti-British rebels in Iraq with arms..

At the beginning of June, Britain managed to scrape together what she considered as sufficient force to overwhelm Vichy resistance. It was hoped that the presence of a Free French column among the invaders would soften the blow and render serious fighting unnecessary -- In spite of the disarmament clauses of the armistice, the French force remained largely intact and moreover, had been been thoroughly purged of British sympathizers in the wake of Mers el Kebir, Dakar, and England's various efforts to bring the French colonies over to the Free French cause. Those who remained regarded the Free French as traitors, had been embittered by the various British attacks on French forces and possessions, and were motivated to redeem the honor of France. What Britain had hoped would be a relatively bloodless demonstration of force turned into a small but hard-fought little campaign. Three Commonwealth battalions were virtually wiped out, and Commonwealth and Free French losses totalled 4600 men, while for their part, the French suffered six thousand casualties before deciding that their position was hopeless, that honor had been thoroughly satisfied, and that they could lay down their arms. To put these figures into perspective, British losses suffered in the concurrent Operation Battleaxe conducted against Rommel totalled only 969 officers and men. At a time in the war when Britain was deploying only very small forces overseas, Exporter was one of her bloodier fights.
As the campaign unfolded, it rapidly became clear that (a) much of the Free French division was unreliable, and (b) that the Vichy French were determined to fight and very much able to do so. The two infantry brigades of 7th Australian originally present plus the 5th Indian Brigade were obviously totally inadequate to the task at hand. Numerous additional forces were thrown into the fray.

- And The Wiltshire Yeomanry was amongst them.

It was a nasty little campaign, the only light relief is a story I heard that the Defeated Vichy French Foreign Legion said fair enough can we sign on for the Free French Foreign Legion.


My father's ship, HMS Ramillies, was torpedoed by the supposedly disarmed FS Surcouf at Diego Garcia in Madagascar. It resulted in a fire in the after 15-inch magazine and damned nearly the loss of the ship. He didn't have much time for them as allies either.

That could be Diego Suarez - geography isn't my strong point!

timdaw Hi,

many thanks for the link to info on operation exporter, My uncle was in 2 Kings Own and was killed on the 11th July 1941 by the Vichy French. I found his grave on the net (www.cwgc.org/cwgcinternet/casualty_details.aspx?casualty=2937131) and wanted to know more about the action he was involved in. Maybe he knew your old man, who knows. Needless to say we didn't use much French produce in our house!

Post a comment