chapter  21
16 Pages

Mers-el-Kébir: The Parley, 3 July

The authorities in France could have done nothing to stop the first move of the day, which was to secure the French warships lying in British harbours. At between 0430 and 0445 – as HMS Foxhound was approaching Mers-el-Kébir – parties of armed marines, sailors and soldiers went aboard every ship lying at Portsmouth, Plymouth, Southampton, Falmouth and five other ports in Britain and four in Canada. Surprise was complete and, although sabotage was accomplished in a few ships, only aboard the submarine Surcouf was there a serious incident, in which two Royal Navy officers and a French warrant officer were mortally wounded and a British leading seaman shot dead, the latter by the submarine’s doctor.