By R. T. Thomas
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Additional resources for Britain and Vichy: The Dilemma of Anglo-French Relations 1940–42
Despite the considerable ingenuity of the French delegation at Wiesbaden, attempts to secure the release of the prisoners did not meet with much success. There were still over a million men in captivity in August 1942, although Laval's releve scheme, implemented in that month, did secure the release of more men in return for skilled labour for the Reich. However much the French might protest, they had to give in on most points. As a last resort, the Germans could always threaten to exercise the unilateral right of denunciation provided by Article 24- a measure which would bring about the immediate resumption of hostilities.
In Alexandria, the negotiating skill of Admiral Cunningham succeeded in bringing about the demobilisation of the French squadron in a situation where strict adherence to the Cabinet's orders might have resulted in disaster, and the French ships eventually rejoined the fight on the Allied side in I943. 35 The main action, however, was to take place at Mers-el-Kebir, the main port ofOran on the Algerian coast. Admiral Somerville's Force H arrived off the port on the same day and through an emissary, Captain Holland, conveyed the following alternatives to Admiral Gensoul: firstly, to sail for British harbours and continue the fight; secondly, to sail to a British port with reduced crews, who would be repatriated when desired.
These ports will be the peace-time naval stations ofthe ships. The German Government solemnly declare to the French Government that during the war they have no intention of using the French Navy stationed in the ports under German control for their own purposes apart from those units which are necessary for the watching of the coast and for mine-sweeping. The German Government also solemnly and 30 BRITAIN AND VICHY formally declare that they have no intention of formulating claims against the French Fleet at the conclusion of peace.
Britain and Vichy: The Dilemma of Anglo-French Relations 1940–42 by R. T. Thomas