chapter  12
13 Pages

24 June

The last useful information to reach the Admiralty from Bizerta arrived in the early hours of 24 June, although it had been originated the previous morning.1 In contrast to the qualified optimism of the Liaison Officer’s report on the French Navy, it painted a gloomy picture of civilian will in Tunisia: ‘Not much fight in Civil Administration from Resident-General downwards. Estimated partly due instructions and partly personal weakness. Censor prohibits publication of anything conducive in slightest degree to strengthen will of Colonies to resist.’ A French Admiralty signal was also delayed. Originated at 1700 on 23 June, it was received by Amiral Godfroy early the next day. He promptly passed the message to Admiral Cunningham, who reported to the Admiralty:2

The words of the first sentence of these instructions were poorly chosen. The armistice with Germany had already been signed, nearly 24 hours previously, but under its terms hostilities were to continue until six hours after the Germans learned that a separate FrancoItalian armistice had been signed. The French naval commanders to whom this signal was addressed were all aware that an armistice had been signed, but not all (and certainly not Godfroy) knew of the terms and there was no indication in the message that a second armistice was the ‘enabling instrument’, pending which they should fight on. Amiral Sud at Bizerta acted on the signal within 24 hours of its origin, expelling the British Naval Liaison Officers from Bizerta and Oran at a few hours’ notice. By 1900, the destroyer Trombe had left Oran for Gibraltar with the BNLOs and their staffs embarked.