by Mitch on October 31, 2011 0 Comments

The French Flag Hoisted at Timbuktu. Illustration from Le Petit Journal, 12 February 1902. The capture of the remote African trading town of Timbuktu by troops under the command of French Marechal Joseph Joffre in 1894 was deemed an important step in securing control of northern Africa. The figures in the foreground are Tuareg tribesmen, who had formerly controlled the area.


After the scramble for Africa had been formalized in the Berlin Conference, land between the 14th meridian and Miltou, Chad became French territory, bounded in the south by a line running from Say, Niger to Baroua. Although the Timbuktu region was now French in name, the principle of effectively required France to actually hold power in those areas assigned, e.g. by signing agreements with local chiefs, setting up a government and making use of the area economically, before the claim would be definitive. On 15 December 1893, the ...

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SYRIA – WWII Political

by Mitch on October 21, 2011 0 Comments

Australian troops just before they advance into French-mandated Syria in collaboration with Free French forces, 10 July 1941.

In 1936 French Premier Léon Blum promised Syria its independence, but his government fell before the decision could be carried out. After the defeat France in FALL GELB in May–June 1940, Syrian mandate authorities and the local Foreign Legion garrison sided with the Vichy governor, Henri Dentz, against the Free French. Syria became a battleground when Free French, British, Australian, and Indian Army forces—some shipped north from East Africa—invaded on June 8, 1941. After five weeks of fighting that required British reinforcement from North Africa, Dentz agreed to an armistice on July 4. Charles de Gaulle was enraged to learn the surrender of Syria and the Levant was made to the British rather than to his delegate. The dispute nearly led to a breach between “Fighting France” and Winston ...

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First World War – African Continent - Consequences

by Mitch on October 18, 2011 0 Comments

Africa was affected by the war in many spheres: military, political, economic, and social. The results were not the same everywhere. In areas where there had been actual fighting, notably in the German colonies, the people suffered greatly. In the French colonies, where the burden of conscription had been heavy, there were anti-colonial protests and widespread resentment. Indeed, in many areas the colonial authorities’ hold on power was weakened: their military were redirected to the war effort; markets and trade routes were disrupted; and the economic recession and growing unemployment that followed the war generated their own tensions.


Military recruitment had temporarily strengthened existing colonial armies, but many of the newly recruited troops perished. The actual number of casualties will never be known exactly, but it was undoubtedly large: of those recruited by the French almost 200,000 lost their lives, while nearly 100,000 lost their lives in the ...

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Suez Crisis

by Mitch on October 15, 2011 0 Comments

An Egyptian boy stands near a British tank amid the rubble of destroyed buildings in Port Said after the British and French assault on the city during the Suez Crisis, November 1956.

Start Date: July 26, 1956

End Date: March 6, 1957

Over the months that followed Egyptian nationalization of the Suez Canal, the community of interest among British, French, and Israeli leaders developed into secret planning for a joint military operation to topple Nasser. The U.S. government was not consulted and indeed opposed the use of force. The British and French governments either did not understand the American attitude or, if they did, believed that Washington would give approval after the fact to policies believed by its major allies to be absolutely necessary.


The British government first tried diplomacy. Two conferences in London attended by the representatives of 24 nations using the canal failed to produce agreement on ...

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Rodolfo Graziani in Libya

by Mitch on October 11, 2011 0 Comments

By Mike Yakich

The death of Italo Balbo in a "friendly fire" incident less than three weeks into the war caused an unplanned shake-up in the Italian high command. Rodolfo Graziani, who had been Chief-of-Staff of the Army since November 1939- but who had extensive experience in Libya- was named to replace Balbo as commander of the North African theater. This transfer simultaneously made Graziani Governor of Libya. It could be seen, in a sense, as a demotion, but Graziani was considered uniquely qualified for this crucial post due to his past experience. And, indeed, he had been a rather strange choice for Army Chief-of-Staff in the first place, given that his previous experience had (except for a stint during the First World War) been almost entirely within the realm of colonial warfare. He was completely lacking in the normal staff background considered essential for filling the Chief of Staff ...

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French Air Force, 1946–1954 Vietnam

by Mitch on October 9, 2011 1 Comment

The French Air Force during the Indochina War was employed primarily as a ground-support force. The air force there was reconstituted in 1946 from personnel and aircraft already in Indochina. The latter were a mixture of captured Japanese aircraft as well as British Spitfire and American-made Bell P-63A Kingcobra fighters, German trimotor Junkers JU-52, and American Douglas C-47 Skytrain (“Gooneybird”) transports.


The French built up their air assets as quickly as resources were available. In 1947 additional C-47s and British Mosquito fighter-bombers arrived from Europe. The fragile plywood Mosquito proved unsuitable for Indochina’s climate, however, and was replaced with the American-made Douglas B-26 Invader light bomber, which the United States began to supply to the French in Vietnam. Later in the war Washington sent Grumman F6F Hellcat and F8F Bearcat fighters as well as Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar transports. The French also purchased aircraft from a variety of sources ...

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French Navy, 1946–1954, Vietnam

by Mitch on October 9, 2011 0 Comments

Richelieu served as a command vessel for the 6th French Infantry off French Indochina during France’s war against Vietnamese insurgents there; including a heavy bombardment of Nha Trang. Both ships served during the Suez crisis in late 1956 (the only time they ever operated together), with Jean Bart landing French marines at Port Said, Egypt; near the northern mouth of the Suez Canal. Jean Bart fired a number of 15” broadsides at Egyptian shore positions during the operation.


In August 1945 when the French government decided to send an Expeditionary Corps to Indochina, it also dispatched air and naval units. The naval assets would be a squadron already in the Far East to support the planned invasion of Japan. Commanded by Admiral Philippe Auboyneau, the squadron was centered on the battleship Richelieu, supported by the cruisers Gloire and Suffren, two destroyers, and the old aircraft carrier Bearn, in service ...

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