Military History of Gibraltar During World War II - Vichy French Attacks: 1940

Vichy French Attacks: 1940

On 18 July 1940, after the destruction of the French Fleet at Mers-el-Kebir by the British, the Vichy government authorized a bombing raid of Gibraltar as a response. Little damage was reported to have been done.

On Tuesday, 24 September, the Italian STEFANI News Agency reported: "As a reprisal for the bombardment of Dakar yesterday morning, one-hundred-and-twenty French aircraft based in Morocco attacked Gibraltar." On the same day, the United Press Agency reported: "The French government has issued an official denial of reports, according to which French aircraft were said to have attacked Gibraltar. Up until now, no reprisals have been undertaken." But the United Press report ended on an ominous note with: "French reprisals are imminent."

Again, on the same day, the Vichy French government issued orders for the naval base and city of Gibraltar to be bombarded. As a result, six bomber squadrons of the Vichy French Air Force (Armée de l'Air de Vichy) and four squadrons of the Vichy French Navy (Marine nationale de Vichy) were employed in the operation. The 64 bombers flew from bases in Oran, Tafaroui (in Algeria), Meknes, Mediouna, and Port Lyautey (in Morocco). The French action was approved by both the German Armistice Commission and the Italian Armistice Commission.

No British aircraft were encountered and much damage was done in the area south of the fortress. The South Mole and a large ship in the harbour were heavily damaged. In the northern part of Gibraltar, fires broke out.

On 25 September, the French returned with a larger force of eighty-three bombers to cause additional damages to the naval base and harbour installations. Again, aircraft of the British Royal Air Force made no appearance. However, the French crews did report encountering heavy anti-aircraft fire. One LeO 451 bomber was lost and 13 other aircraft were lightly damaged during the two days of bombing attacks. The British armed trawler HMT Stella Sirius was sunk by bombs.

The attack on 25 September was to prove to be the last air assault launched against Gibraltar by Vichy forces.

Read more about this topic:  Military History Of Gibraltar During World War II

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