chapter  8
14 Pages

Bordeaux, 19–21 June: Armistice or Africa?

Against all expectation, the Jean Bart managed to get away from St Nazaire at 0100 on 19 June. It was the most splendid achievement on the part of the dockyard workers and the French Navy, who worked strenuously day and night, not only to get the ship ready for sea but to dredge a channel into deep water, a major undertaking which involved blasting away solid rock. Once out of the lock, Jean Bart was fuelled and began the passage under its own steam to Casablanca. The battleship was hardly fit for sea, let alone war, with only one hastily assembled boiler-room and two of its four screws, but one of its main turrets had all four 15in guns installed and it had been provided with anti-aircraft weapons, with which it beat off two attacks at daybreak.