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French aircraft carrier Bearn

Discussions on all aspects of France during the Inter-War era and Second World War.

Re: French aircraft carrier Bearn

Postby takata_1940 on 14 Dec 2009 21:43

Hi Vuurdraak,
Vuurdraak wrote:Besides politics, there are some other questions: the Allies had trouble trusting French navy personnel, since there were many pro-German elements to be found there-> the risk of having a spy/traitor in a vessel escorting convoys was not deemed a good idea.


Is it your personal feeling or something documented?
I believe the former. If the French Navy personnel was largely "pro-German", why didn't they give their ships to the Nazis or, much better, joined the German service all together?
As a matter of fact, the French Navy wasn't pro-German; she was just pro-French Navy and stupid enough to believe that the British or USA were going to take the "French Empire" from her (yes, the Navy thought it was her personal property). She distrusted the Germans, Italians, anyone else, for the very same reason. Nationalists believing in outdated models doesn't make good traitors for another Power. The USA and British higher authorities were sufficiently aware of the political reality for entrusting Darlan with official recognition from November 1942. The move was easy, they only had to make it clear for Darlan they were not going to take any colony from France. Beside, many French Navy ships escorted convoys daily up to the end of the war.

S~
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Re: French aircraft carrier Bearn

Postby mescal on 14 Dec 2009 23:19

Could also be that by the time of its refitting, escort or ASW carriers were not in such great demand, but aircraft ferries were.


Many escort carriers were used as aircraft ferries in the Pacific.
There is no clear frontier, from a functionnal PoV, between CVE & A/C ferry.


But more importantly, the Bearn was very much an outdated vessel-> the elevator(s) were outdated and lacked the proper dimensions for use of all aircraft.


From memory, I think that Béarn actually had an awful aircraft handling system.



Regarding the French capital units under construction by the time of the armistice, CV Joffre was 25% complete in St Nazaire (CV Painlevé not yet laid down), BB Jean Bart made her famous escape from St Nazaire, BB Clémenceau was being built in Brest (on the same slip as Richelieu). Apparently she was prematurely launched by the Germans to clear the slip.
The guns for Clémenceau had been manufactured, but some were sunk while escaping towards Morocco and the others were seized by the Germans - who sent them to coastal batteries in Norway.
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Re: French aircraft carrier Bearn

Postby Manuferey on 15 Dec 2009 01:31

takata_1940 wrote:Hi Vuurdraak,
Vuurdraak wrote:Besides politics, there are some other questions: the Allies had trouble trusting French navy personnel, since there were many pro-German elements to be found there-> the risk of having a spy/traitor in a vessel escorting convoys was not deemed a good idea.


There was actually two French "Navies": the Vichy French navy and the Free French navy.

The Vichy French Navy was probably "neutral" vis-a-vis the US Navy until the landings in North Africa but would have had a lot of resentment against the Royal Navy especially after Mers-el-Kebir and Dakar (I would not even think of Trafalgar :) ). The Vichy French Navy fought against the US Navy in November 42 but AFAIK it did not fire any shots against the Germans in Toulon.

However, the Free French Navy was definitely and unequivocally on the Allied side and even the British side at Dakar so the other Allies could have trusted it.

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Re: French aircraft carrier Bearn

Postby takata_1940 on 16 Dec 2009 03:16

Hi Emmanuel
Manuferey wrote:There was actually two French "Navies": the Vichy French navy and the Free French navy.The Vichy French Navy was probably "neutral" vis-a-vis the US Navy until the landings in North Africa but would have had a lot of resentment against the Royal Navy especially after Mers-el-Kebir and Dakar (I would not even think of Trafalgar :) ). The Vichy French Navy fought against the US Navy in November 42 but AFAIK it did not fire any shots against the Germans in Toulon.
However, the Free French Navy was definitely and unequivocally on the Allied side and even the British side at Dakar so the other Allies could have trusted it.


There was only one official French Navy [Marine Nationale] and a very small bunch of "dissidents" which was the FNFL (Force Navales Françaises Libres). It was the same for the Army and Air Forces. As expected, the military acted as they were ordered to do so by the French Government, which was in Vichy, except of course the dissidents which were considered like British mercenaries, Communists and adventurers. In one case (North Africa), they were ordered to shoot at anybody trying to seize any French territory, and this order was fully maintained until November 1942. On the other hand (Toulon), they were left without order beside Darlan's secret instruction to scuttle the Fleet if someone attempted to take it. As the French admirals in charge were stupid, they did not even tried to escape Toulon before it was too late. At this time, the state of confusion reached its peak and the political situation was anything but clear. Who are the official French authorities? Which one is a genuine order? What really want the Maréchal us to do? etc. Some ordered to oppose the North African landings, some did not, and the Navy scuttled most of its ships.

Now, if one consider that the FNFL (and the Free French) were more trusted by the US authorities than the officials of Vichy, it is just the opposite which happened. De Gaulle's movement was at its lowest, both in Washington and London. The Allies entrusted the Vichy officials with administrative powers (not De Gaulle) and the (ex Vichy) Army, Air Force and Navy was rearmed in priority before any 'Free French' forces. Most of the French ships were sent to the USA for refitting and modernisation with high priority and the 'Free French' units were asked to end the separation. After November 1942, the Free French movement virtually ceased to exist and was asked by Washington and London to end the 'dissidence'. Of course, De Gaulle and its followers, with very good reasons and against Washington will, were not disposed to end here the political struggle and will act in order to eliminate, one by one, every compromised Vichy official inside the reunited 'French National Liberation Commitee'.

Now, concerning the Béarn, she was disarmed as an aircraft carrier at the hostilities outbreak, and she was not worth the rearmament as an aircraft carrier; there was already plenty of new CVEs in the production pipeline and the French Navy lacked any trained air unit to complement a CVE. As Mescal posted above, her usefulness in the form she was used was certainly much better fitted with her capacity and those of the French naval aviation.

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