Vichy France Navy Joins The Axis - 1940

Discussions on alternate history, including events up to 20 years before today. Hosted by Terry Duncan.
Volyn
Member
Posts: 298
Joined: 04 Jul 2018 04:53
Location: Georgia, United States

Vichy France Navy Joins The Axis - 1940

Post by Volyn » 27 Oct 2018 01:28

The French Navy (Marine Nationale) joins the Axis in 1940 after the Fall of France and it is combined with the Italian Navy (Regia Marina) to create the Axis Armada.

German vessels operate in the open Atlantic and the Italian-French vessels operate in the Mediterranean and Black Seas.

This thread assumes that the Attack on Mers-el-Kébir does not occur in 1940 because the French ships are recalled to France beforehand, and the Scuttling of the French fleet in Toulon does not occur in 1942 since it is aligned with the Axis.

The use of this Armada could be used to subdue Malta, Egypt (control the Suez) and most importantly confront the Soviet Black Sea Fleet (Chernomorsky Flot).

The French posses the following ships:

7 battleships
7 cruisers
23 destroyers
13 torpedo boats
6 sloops
21 submarines
9 patrol boats
19 auxiliary ships
1 school ship
28 tugs
4 cranes
39 small ships
1 seaplane tender

The Italians posses the following ships:

6 battleships
19 cruisers
59 destroyers
67 torpedo boats
116 submarines

Can the Allied Navy in the Mediterranean stop the Axis Armada?

How would the Armada be deployed - could it be used as an effective "Brown Water" Navy in the Black Sea by using the Luftwaffe as an air shield against Russian ships?

How would this force be employed during Operation Barbarossa (1941) if it was used to attack Odessa, Sevastopol, Feodosia and Kerch and during Operation Edelweiss (1942) attacking Novorossiysk, Tuapse and Temryuk?

Hopefully some intelligent observations can be made in this "What If" scenario.

User avatar
Robert Rojas
Member
Posts: 2573
Joined: 19 Nov 2002 04:29
Location: Pleasant Hill, California - U.S.A.

Vichy France Navy Joins The Axis - 1940 - (WHAT GAUL!)

Post by Robert Rojas » 27 Oct 2018 07:33

Greetings to both brother Volyn and the community as a whole. Howdy Volyn! Well sir, in respect to your introductory posting of Friday - October 26, 2018 - 4:28pm, before old Uncle Bob ventures too deeply into this hypothetical minefield of yours, I believe the neighborhood-at-large will require a clarification regarding the political loyalty of the Marine Nationale after the creation of Marshal Philippe Petain's regime in what would subsequently become Vichy France. Does Marshal Philippe Petain's regime assume a historically NEUTRALIST stance OR does Marshal Philippe Petain's regime assume the role of a belligerent formally aligned with the Axis Alliance? I, for one, do NOT envision the leadership of the Marine Nationale going rogue and arbitrarily declaring its fealty to the Axis Alliance if the Vichy Regime remains NEUTRAL in political outlook. That is exactly how I personally interpret your wording of "THE FRENCH NAVY (MARINE NATIONALE) JOINS THE AXIS IN 1940 AFTER THE FALL OF FRANCE". Have I misconstrued OR taken something out of its proper context with your introductory wording? Thank you in advance for entertaining my pointed inquiries. Well, that is my initial two pence OR centimes worth on this target rich topic of interest - for now anyway. In any case, I would like to bid you an especially copacetic day over in your corner of the Peach State of Georgia.

Best Regards,
Uncle Bob :idea: :|
"It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it" - Robert E. Lee

pugsville
Member
Posts: 690
Joined: 17 Aug 2011 04:40

Re: Vichy France Navy Joins The Axis - 1940

Post by pugsville » 27 Oct 2018 09:50

There a few questions about how it could work.

The Vichy regime wanted to some degree normalize relations, to a post war settlement, and views the fleet and active belligerency as their trump cards. But they wanted something quid pro. But What?

The fight for inter Axis resources would be more complicated the Italians struggled to fuel for their fleet. It;'s hard to see the Vichy regime jumping over the Italians in the resource allocation area.

The Vichy Regime was scathing of the Italians who they did not knowledge as proper victors. A workable relations with the Italians is questionable.

thaddeus_c
Member
Posts: 595
Joined: 22 Jan 2014 03:16

Re: Vichy France Navy Joins The Axis - 1940

Post by thaddeus_c » 27 Oct 2018 13:00

would propose a different angle, as already noted the French had ZERO interest in joining Axis or any other schemes in which their warships were turned over to the Axis.

IF the Germans and Vichy regime could reach some sort of treaty arrangement, the KM could gain some fair number of merchant marine ships including armed auxiliary cruisers (IIRC they had over a dozen of those)

since Germany was not permitted submarines after WWI it is possible the French could be forced to cede over those also? or a compromise struck gaining the KM some of the smaller boats already in the Med?

maltesefalcon
Member
Posts: 1771
Joined: 03 Sep 2003 18:15
Location: Canada

Re: Vichy France Navy Joins The Axis - 1940

Post by maltesefalcon » 27 Oct 2018 13:47

One wonders if the French naval personnel would be required to take the Loyalty Oath as was required from other (foreign) troops?

One other way to ensure compliance was to intersperse the French fleet into German formations under German overall command. However considering the relative size of the DKM at the time, it may have proven difficult to implement.

Carl Schwamberger
Host - Allied sections
Posts: 6773
Joined: 02 Sep 2006 20:31
Location: USA

Re: Vichy France Navy Joins The Axis - 1940

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 27 Oct 2018 15:43

thaddeus_c wrote:
27 Oct 2018 13:00
would propose a different angle, as already noted the French had ZERO interest in joining Axis or any other schemes in which their warships were turned over to the Axis.

IF the Germans and Vichy regime could reach some sort of treaty arrangement, the KM could gain some fair number of merchant marine ships including armed auxiliary cruisers (IIRC they had over a dozen of those)

since Germany was not permitted submarines after WWI it is possible the French could be forced to cede over those also? or a compromise struck gaining the KM some of the smaller boats already in the Med?
In technical terms the most practical of the proposals here. retraining German crews to French equipment would take 6-12 months for the merchant ships, and over 12 months for the submarines. One small mistake in the latter case and you sink. Since you are taking away fuel, men, and other resources from other sectors of the Germany war effort this is unlikely to have a large effect. I does make the war at sea more varied and interesting.
maltesefalcon wrote:
27 Oct 2018 13:47
...
One other way to ensure compliance was to intersperse the French fleet into German formations under German overall command. However considering the relative size of the DKM at the time, it may have proven difficult to implement.
Since the majority of the French fleet was in the Mediterranean, & the remainder scattered or in British hands this would be 'difficult' to implement.

thaddeus_c
Member
Posts: 595
Joined: 22 Jan 2014 03:16

Re: Vichy France Navy Joins The Axis - 1940

Post by thaddeus_c » 27 Oct 2018 17:08

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
27 Oct 2018 15:43
thaddeus_c wrote:
27 Oct 2018 13:00
would propose a different angle, as already noted the French had ZERO interest in joining Axis or any other schemes in which their warships were turned over to the Axis.

IF the Germans and Vichy regime could reach some sort of treaty arrangement, the KM could gain some fair number of merchant marine ships including armed auxiliary cruisers (IIRC they had over a dozen of those)

since Germany was not permitted submarines after WWI it is possible the French could be forced to cede over those also? or a compromise struck gaining the KM some of the smaller boats already in the Med?
In technical terms the most practical of the proposals here. retraining German crews to French equipment would take 6-12 months for the merchant ships, and over 12 months for the submarines. One small mistake in the latter case and you sink. Since you are taking away fuel, men, and other resources from other sectors of the Germany war effort this is unlikely to have a large effect. I does make the war at sea more varied and interesting.
maltesefalcon wrote:
27 Oct 2018 13:47
...
One other way to ensure compliance was to intersperse the French fleet into German formations under German overall command. However considering the relative size of the DKM at the time, it may have proven difficult to implement.
Since the majority of the French fleet was in the Mediterranean, & the remainder scattered or in British hands this would be 'difficult' to implement.
firstly, having it ALL in the Med would be an advantage as it gives the Germans a "scratch fleet" without trying to get past Gibraltar.

they seized a large part of French merchant marine in 1942, have no info on the timeframe it returned to service? note my speculation was NOT warships so probably they could be in service at the low end of your estimate? (leaving aside the possibility of any French sailors joining KM efforts)

the KM only seized one French submarine historically and it was only used for training, although it was proposed others to be completed for Germany none were. still more likely than French battleships entering Axis service

User avatar
Kingfish
Member
Posts: 2774
Joined: 05 Jun 2003 16:22
Location: USA

Re: Vichy France Navy Joins The Axis - 1940

Post by Kingfish » 27 Oct 2018 18:47

Volyn wrote:
27 Oct 2018 01:28
The French posses the following ships:

7 battleships
7 cruisers
23 destroyers
13 torpedo boats
6 sloops
21 submarines
9 patrol boats
19 auxiliary ships
1 school ship
28 tugs
4 cranes
39 small ships
1 seaplane tender
The above doesn't reflect the operational status, especially in battleships. At the time of the armistices Both Jean Bart and Richelieu were incomplete, Courbet and Paris were in Portsmouth and Lorraine was in Alexandria.

France having the resources to complete the first two is questionable, and the other three would most certainly be either commandeered or sunk by British forces once the Vichy went over to the Axis.
The gods do not deduct from a man's allotted span the hours spent in fishing.
~Babylonian Proverb

User avatar
Robert Rojas
Member
Posts: 2573
Joined: 19 Nov 2002 04:29
Location: Pleasant Hill, California - U.S.A.

RE: Vichy France Navy Joins The Axis - 1940 - (WHAT GAUL!).

Post by Robert Rojas » 27 Oct 2018 19:45

Greetings to both brother Volyn and the community as a whole. Howdy Volyn! Well sir, in continuing reference to your introductory posting of Friday - October 26, 2018 - 4:28pm, from what I have gleaned from the disparate contributors of your hypothetical creation so far, old yours truly rather suspects that the Marine Nationale of Vichy France will exist as little more than an over glorified FLEET IN BEING anchored in the ports of Southern France for the duration of the European conflict. Incidentally, just to sate my geopolitical curiosity, what practical inducement OR inducements would Berlin and Rome have to offer the NEUTRAL government in Ankara to allow both French and Italian naval assets to transit across Turkish Territory into the Black Sea? Conversely, what might be Moscow's potential response OR responses to Ankara's NOT SO NEUTRAL maritime accommodation OR accommodations to both Berlin and Rome? As then as it is today, old Muscovy sees the Black Sea as THEIR lake and THEIR lake ONLY! Incidentally, sailing units of both the Marine National and the Regia Marina into the Black Sea prior to June 22, 1941 would certainly convey a "modicum of warning" to Moscow that something very unpleasant was afoot. It is just something to ponder. Well, that is my latest two Yankee cents worth on this target rich topic of interest - for now anyway. In any case, I would like to bid you an especially copacetic day down in your corner of the Peach State of Georgia.

Best Regards,
Uncle Bob :idea: :|
"It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it" - Robert E. Lee

Volyn
Member
Posts: 298
Joined: 04 Jul 2018 04:53
Location: Georgia, United States

Re: Vichy France Navy Joins The Axis - 1940 - (WHAT GAUL!)

Post by Volyn » 28 Oct 2018 03:43

Robert Rojas wrote:
27 Oct 2018 07:33
I believe the neighborhood-at-large will require a clarification regarding the political loyalty of the Marine Nationale after the creation of Marshal Philippe Petain's regime in what would subsequently become Vichy France. Does Marshal Philippe Petain's regime assume a historically NEUTRALIST stance OR does Marshal Philippe Petain's regime assume the role of a belligerent formally aligned with the Axis Alliance? I, for one, do NOT envision the leadership of the Marine Nationale going rogue and arbitrarily declaring its fealty to the Axis Alliance if the Vichy Regime remains NEUTRAL in political outlook. That is exactly how I personally interpret your wording of "THE FRENCH NAVY (MARINE NATIONALE) JOINS THE AXIS IN 1940 AFTER THE FALL OF FRANCE". Have I misconstrued OR taken something out of its proper context with your introductory wording?
Bob - In this hypothetical scenario we assume the Vichy government joins the Axis which allows the fleet to transfer without the Germans having to commandeer them, so the fleet does not go rogue. The real question is - could a combined French and Italian fleet be used to effectively contribute to the German war effort in the Med and Black Sea?
Robert Rojas wrote:
27 Oct 2018 19:45
Incidentally, just to sate my geopolitical curiosity, what practical inducement OR inducements would Berlin and Rome have to offer the NEUTRAL government in Ankara to allow both French and Italian naval assets to transit across Turkish Territory into the Black Sea? Conversely, what might be Moscow's potential response OR responses to Ankara's NOT SO NEUTRAL maritime accommodation OR accommodations to both Berlin and Rome? As then as it is today, old Muscovy sees the Black Sea as THEIR lake and THEIR lake ONLY!
Good questions - how could Turkey be persuaded to facilitate Axis movements through their "neutral" territories? We know that Turkey traded chromium and other necessary wartime materials with Germany throughout the war, maybe the existence of the Armada will help persuade Turkey that there is a valuable enough benefit to helping the Axis wipe out the Soviet Black Sea fleet?

Of course the Soviets would see any incursion into the Black Sea as hostile, so the fleet could be employed after the invasion, by then who would care what Moscow had to say? We know the Soviets kept their main surface ships away from Southern Ukraine/Crimea once it was clear that the Luftwaffe posed an unstoppable threat to their ships. This would clear the way for the use of the Axis Armada in support of the campaigns of Odessa and Sevastopol at least.

Volyn
Member
Posts: 298
Joined: 04 Jul 2018 04:53
Location: Georgia, United States

Re: Vichy France Navy Joins The Axis - 1940

Post by Volyn » 28 Oct 2018 03:50

pugsville wrote:
27 Oct 2018 09:50
There a few questions about how it could work.

The Vichy regime wanted to some degree normalize relations, to a post war settlement, and views the fleet and active belligerency as their trump cards. But they wanted something quid pro. But What?

The fight for inter Axis resources would be more complicated the Italians struggled to fuel for their fleet. It;'s hard to see the Vichy regime jumping over the Italians in the resource allocation area.

The Vichy Regime was scathing of the Italians who they did not knowledge as proper victors. A workable relations with the Italians is questionable.
All valid points - Perhaps the Vichy government can be convinced to join the Axis in exchange for such things as future control over the Suez (some managerial role), new colonies in the Middle East if they can be taken from the British, and perhaps offer them greater flexibility in their domestic and international policies; or at least until Hitler decides to renege on them.

As for the inter-Axis resources, maybe Germany could get the Soviets to increase their oil supply to them? Stalin was in no hurry to provoke Hitler, maybe he would have increased the allotments of fuel if Hitler told him he it was needed to continue his war against Britain?
Last edited by Volyn on 28 Oct 2018 03:56, edited 1 time in total.

Volyn
Member
Posts: 298
Joined: 04 Jul 2018 04:53
Location: Georgia, United States

Re: Vichy France Navy Joins The Axis - 1940

Post by Volyn » 28 Oct 2018 03:54

Kingfish wrote:
27 Oct 2018 18:47
Volyn wrote:
27 Oct 2018 01:28
The French posses the following ships:

7 battleships
7 cruisers
23 destroyers
13 torpedo boats
6 sloops
21 submarines
9 patrol boats
19 auxiliary ships
1 school ship
28 tugs
4 cranes
39 small ships
1 seaplane tender
The above doesn't reflect the operational status, especially in battleships. At the time of the armistices Both Jean Bart and Richelieu were incomplete, Courbet and Paris were in Portsmouth and Lorraine was in Alexandria.

France having the resources to complete the first two is questionable, and the other three would most certainly be either commandeered or sunk by British forces once the Vichy went over to the Axis.
The list above is the combined amount of French ships present during the Attack on Mers-el-Kébir and the Scuttling of the French fleet in Toulon. If any ships were not combat effective then they would not be involved; however, the majority of these ships were available for use if they could be properly supplied.

User avatar
Robert Rojas
Member
Posts: 2573
Joined: 19 Nov 2002 04:29
Location: Pleasant Hill, California - U.S.A.

RE: Vichy France Navy Joins The Axis - 1940 - (WHAT GAUL!).

Post by Robert Rojas » 28 Oct 2018 06:11

Greetings to both brother Volyn and the community as a whole. Howdy Volyn! Well sir, in respect to your posting of Saturday - October 27, 2018 - 6:43pm, old yours truly would like to convey my appreciation for your points-of-clarification regarding both the political status of Vichy France AND the potential diplomatic intrigues involving Turkey. These clarifications certainly do open quite a number of doors for free wheeling discussion after the Armistice of Compiegne on June 22, 1940. So, given the divergent geopolitical interests of National Socialist Germany, Fascist Italy and yes, Vichy France, what is the practical likelihood that these three powers will be able to transform and synchronize their divergent geopolitical interests into a unified GRAND STRATEGY for the entire Mediterranean Basin? Will Benito Mussolini's miscalculations in Egypt (September 09, 1940) and Greece (October 28, 1940) present both Adolf Hitler and Philippe Petain a fait accompli for the creation of such a potential GRAND STRATEGY? Remember, this is year 1940 and the British Commonwealth shows no signs of rolling over and dying. The neutralization of the British Commonwealth in the Mediterranean Basin just "MIGHT" induce the nations of Portugal, Spain and Turkey to seek both political and military accommodation with the Axis Alliance. Having Turkey onboard will certainly add a whole new dimension to the future assault upon the Soviet Union. Yes, both the Marine Nationale and the Regia Marina will have their work cut out for them assuming that they're not systematically blown out of the water by the Royal Navy. There is much to ponder indeed! Well, that's my latest two Yankee cents worth on this target rich topic of interest - for now anyway. In any case, I would like to bid you an especially copacetic day over in your corner of the Peach State of Georgia.

Best Regards,
Uncle Bob :idea: :|
"It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it" - Robert E. Lee

Volyn
Member
Posts: 298
Joined: 04 Jul 2018 04:53
Location: Georgia, United States

Re: RE: Vichy France Navy Joins The Axis - 1940 - (WHAT GAUL!).

Post by Volyn » 29 Oct 2018 00:40

Robert Rojas wrote:
28 Oct 2018 06:11
given the divergent geopolitical interests of National Socialist Germany, Fascist Italy and yes, Vichy France, what is the practical likelihood that these three powers will be able to transform and synchronize their divergent geopolitical interests into a unified GRAND STRATEGY for the entire Mediterranean Basin?
Hello Bob, here is one possibility -

The governments in Rome and Vichy do not have to come into perfect political alignment, but they do share certain interests. Why wouldn't the Vichy and Italians accept new colonies (from a defeated Britain), and possible control over areas like the Suez and Gibraltar?

Of course there are risks, but this is war so everything is a risk, remember it is 1940 so the whole strategy concerning North Africa, the Balkans and the Soviet Union have yet to be determined. With the Axis Armada how much would such strategies be changed? Perhaps the Siege of Malta (which began 11 June 1940) and Operation Felix (planned attacked on Gibraltar, but never carried out) would have turned out differently.
Robert Rojas wrote:
28 Oct 2018 06:11
Will Benito Mussolini's miscalculations in Egypt (September 09, 1940) and Greece (October 28, 1940) present both Adolf Hitler and Philippe Petain a fait accompli for the creation of such a potential GRAND STRATEGY? Remember, this is year 1940 and the British Commonwealth shows no signs of rolling over and dying.
Since the Axis Armada now exists Mussolini would not have engaged in Egypt or Greece without the military assistance of the Armada so maybe these activities are delayed due to the Malta and Gibraltar operations?

Mussolini would have been preoccupied with Malta for sure, he had already made plans to use an invasion force that was 40,000 strong. Even if the British preemptively attacked Libya, the Italians could be persuaded to sacrifice empty territory in favor of taking the aforementioned strategic locations. If the Armada helps to secure these locations, the Battle of Britain could have also been impacted in favor of the Axis. The British may not surrender, but they would be placed on the sidelines for awhile.
Robert Rojas wrote:
28 Oct 2018 06:11
The neutralization of the British Commonwealth in the Mediterranean Basin just "MIGHT" induce the nations of Portugal, Spain and Turkey to seek both political and military accommodation with the Axis Alliance. Having Turkey onboard will certainly add a whole new dimension to the future assault upon the Soviet Union.
Exactly - Spain would more likely join the Axis if Gibraltar was taken over and Portugal could have followed as well if they saw that the British could actually be removed from their doorsteps. These sites would have allowed for excellent air and sea bases to patrol the Atlantic and continue to influence the outcome of that campaign as well.

Turkey would have the advantage of watching how the battles in the Mediterranean concluded and would therefore be more inclined to join in a great Axis offensive against the Soviets. It would have been very difficult, if not impossible, for the Soviets to hold the Caucasus in 1942 if the Axis were invading from the North and South and engaging in seaborne landings from the Black Sea.
Robert Rojas wrote:
28 Oct 2018 06:11
Yes, both the Marine Nationale and the Regia Marina will have their work cut out for them assuming that they're not systematically blown out of the water by the Royal Navy.
Maybe the Royal Navy simply withdraws from the Mediterranean completely by way of the Suez and moves to India, leaving the Army and Air Force to defend Egypt?

Churchill wants to fight, but he would be forced to re-assemble his Naval forces if the Armada were effectively employed, and the Luftwaffe would be operating from several new locations that would also harass the remaining British ships in the area.

Volyn
Member
Posts: 298
Joined: 04 Jul 2018 04:53
Location: Georgia, United States

Re: Vichy France Navy Joins The Axis - 1940

Post by Volyn » 29 Oct 2018 03:08

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
27 Oct 2018 15:43
thaddeus_c wrote:
27 Oct 2018 13:00
would propose a different angle, as already noted the French had ZERO interest in joining Axis or any other schemes in which their warships were turned over to the Axis.

IF the Germans and Vichy regime could reach some sort of treaty arrangement, the KM could gain some fair number of merchant marine ships including armed auxiliary cruisers (IIRC they had over a dozen of those)

since Germany was not permitted submarines after WWI it is possible the French could be forced to cede over those also? or a compromise struck gaining the KM some of the smaller boats already in the Med?
In technical terms the most practical of the proposals here. retraining German crews to French equipment would take 6-12 months for the merchant ships, and over 12 months for the submarines. One small mistake in the latter case and you sink. Since you are taking away fuel, men, and other resources from other sectors of the Germany war effort this is unlikely to have a large effect. I does make the war at sea more varied and interesting.
Carl - How practical would it be for the German crews to be retrained, assuming there is full cooperation from the French authorities to help train them?

We can consider this - if Germany has the French Fleet, will the use of U-Boats, and the overall strategy to build them, be entirely altered?

If German crews are used instead of French crews, especially on the larger capital ships, what affect will this have on the KM manpower at that time? Each French battleship might need somewhere between 600-1,000 sailors x 7 potential ships = major personnel changes would be required.

As for the materials, fuel and other resources in 1940 what real shortages was Germany experiencing? They have not yet blundered in the USSR, Balkans, North Africa, etc. so they have a clean slate to work from and have the use of the Axis Armada to shape their policies. If Germany invests heavily into the training and supplying of this new Armada, what is a realistic time frame that such a force could be "battle ready"?

Return to “What if”