Redoutable-class submarine (1928)
The Redoutable-class submarines were a group of 31 submarines built between 1924 and 1937 for the French Navy. Most of the class saw service during the Second World War; the class is known in French as the Classe 1 500 tonnes, they were designated as "First Class submarines", or "large submarine cruisers". They are known as the Redoutable class in reference to the lead boat Redoutable, in service from 1931 to 1942; the class is divided into Type I, known as Le Redoutable and Type II, Pascal. Modern submarines when they were designed, they became outdated, were approaching obsolescence by the beginning of the Second World War; the conditions of the Armistice of 22 June 1940 prevented the Vichy government from carrying out a modernization programme. 24 out of the 29 units that served in the war were lost. Used in the defence of the Second French colonial empire under the Vichy regime, submarines of the class saw action against Allied offensives at the Battles of Dakar and Madagascar. Many of the submarines of the class came under Allied control after the Allied landings in North Africa.
Few however saw much further active service after this due to a period of refitting and alterations done in the United States between February 1943 and March 1945. One exception was Casabianca; the surviving submarines were used for training purposes after the war, with the last of them being disarmed in 1952. The Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 sought to prevent a future naval arms race by imposing limits on the number and size of certain types of warships that each great power could possess. France sought to expand its submarine forces – which were not limited by the treaty – as an essential tool to defend its coastline and empire; the 1100-ton Requin-class submarines, designed in 1922, was the initial attempt to meet these requirements. The design for the Requin class's successor was commissioned from general engineer of maritime engineering Léon Roquebert. Roquebert was tasked with creating a "grand cruiser" type of submarine, with the role of carrying out surveillance of an adversary's bases, destroying their communications by attacking their ships, while protecting French colonies.
They were provide clearance of enemy vessels for it. Construction of the Type I project submarines, starting with Redoutable, was approved by the superior council of the navy on 1 July 1924; the building programme was expanded the following year with the Type II submarines. Together with the submarine cruiser Surcouf, the Redoutable-class submarines constituted the elite of the French submarine fleet. 92.3 m long, with a beam of 8.2 m and a draught of 4.9 m, the Redoutable-class submarines could dive up to 80 m, although several, such as Archimède reached depths of 120 m while diving. The submarines had a surfaced displacement of 1,572 tonnes and a submerged displacement of 2,082 tonnes. Propulsion while surfaced was provided by two 4,000 hp diesel motors for the Redoutable sub-class, while the Pascal variant boats had 6,000 hp, while the submarines from Agosta onwards had 8,000 hp, with a maximum speed of 18.6 knots. Motors were built by the Swiss manufacturer Sulzer, with the exception of Pasteur, Archimède, Ajax, Prométhée, Persée and Le Centaure, which were propelled with Schneider motors.
The submarines' electrical propulsion allowed them to attain speeds of 10 knots. Designated as "grand cruise submarines", their surfaced range was 10,000 nautical miles at 10 knots, 14,000 nautical miles at 7 knots, with a submerged range of 100 nautical miles at 5 knots. Radio communication was through wireless antenna; the Redoutable-class submarines had significant firepower. They were equipped with eleven torpedo tubes: four 550 mm tubes in fixed positions in the bow, an orientable platform for three 550 mm tubes behind the conning tower, another orientable platform on the stern composed of two 550 mm and two 400 mm tubes; the 550 mm torpedoes were intended for use against large ships, with the 400 mm torpedoes for smaller boats. Torpedoes were propelled by compressed air at a speed of 44 knots. Torpedoes left a trail on the surface, which allowed the target to see and avoid the torpedo, as well as trace the torpedo back to its origin; the submarines were fitted with a 100 mm deck gun, mounted in front of the conning tower and from 1929, dual anti-aerial 13.2 mm machine guns.
The Redoutable-class submarines had a quick diving speed, submerging in between 40 seconds. They had a reputation of handling well while at the surface and while diving, their motors were noisy, as was auxiliary propulsion while submerged, this constituted the principal criticism of these submarines, despite their reliability. Their speed and powerful armament was balanced against their ability to detect targets, by visual sight, they were equipped with three periscopes – an attack periscope, a surveillance periscope, an auxiliary periscope – and a hydrophone for passive sonar. The large construction program made it necessary to contract work out to private shipyards, such as those at Caen or on the Loire, as well as the various naval bases; the construction orders were spread over six annual tranches. Small technical alter
Chief of Staff of the French Navy
The Chief of the Staff of the French Navy is the head of the French Navy and is responsible to the Minister of Defence in relation to preparation and deployment. CEMM as a naval expert, assists: The chef d'état-major des armées in the preparation of naval operations, planning and the motion application of cohesiveness in consolidating future military means The Prime Minister of France in safeguarding France's maritime apparatus CEMM has authority over: Various naval forces command: Force d'action Navale. CEMM presides over the board of directors of the oceanographic service of the navy. Well before the First World War, the Chief of Staff of the French Navy was at first hand, the Military Cabinet Chief of the Minister of the Navy; this mode of functioning was at origin, the main utilization designation of the Military figure which had effective authority on the French Navy, referred to the Amiral who commanded the armed naval force designated as « Amiralissime », in reference to the title of « généralissime » utilized in the French Army.
The First World War replaced all these functionalities in cause, with major incorporation of various tasks in order to conduct a long term industrial naval warfare in light of disposing and having the means to confront new menaces constituted by submarine warfare and mine explosions: in accordance, another sort of twin identical general staff headquarters directorate was created and designated as - Directorate General of Submarine Warfare - with an action domain described as redundant, a constituted redundancy which led to the dissolving of the Directorate General of Submarine Warfare DGGSM, at the end of World War I and the transfer of the various associated attribution prerogatives to the various bureaux of the general staff headquarters of the French Navy. In order to dispose of an effective permanent system allowing the uniform façade transition shiftings between times of peace - preparation periods - and times of war - action periods, the Vice-Amiral Chief of Staff of the French Navy became, in the early years of 1920s, the designated Commandant of French Naval Forces in case of war, the various work functionalities of the general staff headquarter would be in such circumstances at the disposition of the Major General of the French Navy, a Vice-Admiral, his first deputy in times of peace.
After World War II, the progressive disappearing of the Naval Portfolio of the Minister of the Navy led to confine a part of the prerogatives of the Naval Minister to the Chief of Staff of the French Navy, a part of the prerogatives which were in a progressive manner adopted at the Interarm level by the general staff headquarters of the Armies and the respective Chief of that general staff headquarters, in reference to: Chef d'État-Major des Armées. CEMA accordingly inherited the direction responsibility of naval and maritime operations from CEMM in 1971. In the early years of the 2000s, a large part of these organic prerogatives - forces preparations - were transferred to Chief of the general staff headquarters of the Armies, the CEMM remains the principal counselor and adviser in relation to the preparation of use of the French Navy. Amiral Chiefs of Staff of the French Navy since 1892: Vice-Amiral Alfred Gervais: 22 January 1892 vice-amiral Edgar Humann: 21 September 1894 Contre-Amiral Charles Chauvin: 10 November 1895 vice-amiral Jean Sallandrouze de Lamornais: 15 June 1896 vice-amiral Jules de Cuverville: 8 July 1898 contre-amiral Leonce Caillard: 15 July 1899 vice-amiral Amédée Bienaime: 1 May 1900 contre-amiral Ernest Marquer: 4 February 1902 contre-amiral Paul Campion: 18 February 1904 vice-amiral Charles Touchard: 3 February 1905 contre-amiral Charles Aubert: 1 November 1905 vice-amiral Charles Aubert: 23 May 1907 contre-amiral Laurent Marin-Darbel: 23 August 1909 vice-amiral Laurent Marin-Darbel: 9 September 1909 contre-amiral Paul Auvert: 15 February 1911 vice-amiral Paul Auvert: 28 mars 1911 vice-amiral Charles Aubert: 1 February 1912 vice-amiral Pierre Le Bris: 24 January 1913 vice-amiral Louis Pivet: 20 May 1914 vice-amiral Charles Aubert: 7 December 1914 vice-amiral Marie de Fauques de Jonquieres: 2 May 1915 vice-amiral Ferdinand De Bon: 10 M
François Piétri was a minister in several governments in the years of the French Third Republic and was French ambassador to Spain from 1940 to 1944 under the Vichy regime. Born in Bastia, Corsica to Antoine-Jourdan Piétri, a lawyer and préfecture councilman, Clorinde Gavini, the daughter of a French National Assembly member. Piétri graduated from Collège Stanislas in 1899 and moved on to the École libre des sciences politiques for his university education, he was selected for the French Civil Service in 1906 as an auditor and progressed through the ranks to the post of Directeur général des finances du Maroc - Director of Finances for Morocco - a role he filled from 1917 to 1924. In 1924, Piétri was elected to the National Assembly and remained in office there until 1942. During that time, he occupied a number of responsibilities, including: Undersecretary of State for Finance in 1926 Minister for Colonial Affairs in 1929–1930 and again in 1933 Minister of the Budget in 1931–1932 Defense Minister in 1932 Finance Minister for just one week in early 1934 Minister of Merchant Marine 1–7 June 1935 Naval Minister in 1934–1936 Minister of Posts and Telephones in 1940 after the German invasion.
He remained involved in French politics during the Nazi occupation of France, becoming the Vichy ambassador to Spain from 1940 to 1944. François Piétri died in 1966 in Ajaccio. François Piétri at the French Ministry of Finance website Piétri, François - Mes années d'Espagne - 1940-1948 - Librairie Plon, January 1954 A funeral oration by the vice-president of the International Olympic Committee
Jean Louis Xavier François Darlan was a French admiral and political figure. He was admiral of the fleet and Chief of Staff of the French Navy in 1939 at the beginning of World War II. After France signed an armistice with Nazi Germany in 1940, Darlan served in the pro-German Vichy regime, becoming its deputy leader for a time; when the Allies invaded French North Africa in 1942, Darlan was the highest-ranking officer there, a deal was made, giving him control of North African French forces in exchange for joining their side. Less than two months he was assassinated. Darlan was born in Lot-et-Garonne, to a family with a long connection with the French Navy, his great-grandfather was killed at the Battle of Trafalgar. His father, Jean-Baptiste Darlan, was a lawyer and politician who served as Minister of Justice in the cabinet of Jules Méline. Georges Leygues, a political colleague of his father who would spend seven years as Minister of the Marine, was Darlan's godfather. Darlan graduated from the École Navale in 1902.
During World War I he commanded an artillery battery. After the war Darlan commanded the training ships Jeanne d'Arc and the Edgar Quinet, receiving promotions to frigate captain in 1920 and captain in 1926. Thereafter Darlan rose swiftly, he was appointed Chef de Cabinet to Leygues and promoted to contre-amiral in 1929. In 1930 he served as the French Navy's representative at the London Naval Conference and in 1932 he was promoted to vice-amiral. Subsequently in 1934 he took command of the Atlantic Squadron at Brest, he was promoted to vice-amiral d'escadre in 1936 and being appointed Chief of the Naval Staff from 1 January 1937, at the same time promoted to amiral. As head of the Navy he used his political connections to lobby for building program to counter the rising threat from the Kriegsmarine and Regia Marina. After attending the Coronation of George VI Darlan complained that protocol had left him, as a mere vice admiral, "behind a pillar and after the Chinese admiral". In 1939 he was promoted to Amiral de la flotte, a rank created to put him on equal terms with the First Sea Lord of the Royal Navy.
After the declaration of war in September 1939, Darlan became Commander-in-Chief of the French Navy. Darlan was immensely proud of the French navy which he had helped to build up, after Axis forces defeated France, on 3 June he threatened that he would mutiny and lead the fleet to fight under the British flag in the event of an armistice. Darlan promised Churchill at the Briare Conference that no French ship would come into German hands. On 15 June he was still talking of a potential armistice with indignation. Darlan appears to have retreated from his position on 15 June, when the Cabinet voted 13–6 for Camille Chautemps' compromise proposal to inquire about possible terms, he was willing to accept an armistice provided. On 16 June Churchill's telegram arrived agreeing to an armistice provided the French fleet was moved to British ports; this was not acceptable to Darlan. That day, according to Jules Moch, he declared that Britain was finished so there was no point in continuing to fight, he was concerned that if there was no armistice Hitler would invade French North Africa via Franco's Spain.
That evening Paul Reynaud, feeling he lacked sufficient cabinet support for continuing the war, resigned as Prime Minister, Philippe Pétain formed a new government with a view to seeking an armistice with Germany. Darlan served as the Minister of Marine in the Pétain administration from 16 June. On 18 June Darlan gave his "word of honour" to the British First Sea Lord, Sir Dudley Pound that he would not allow the French fleet to fall into German hands. Petain's government signed an armistice but retained control of the territories known as "Vichy France" after the capital moved to Vichy in early July. General Charles Noguès, Commander-in-Chief of French forces in North Africa, was dismayed at the armistice but accepted it because Darlan would not let him have the French fleet to continue hostilities against the Axis powers. Churchill wrote that Darlan could have been the leader of the Free French, "a de Gaulle raised to the tenth power", had he defected at this time. De Gaulle's biographer Jean Lacouture described Darlan as "the archetypal man of failed destiny" thereafter.
The terms of the armistice called for the demobilisation and disarmament of the ships of the French Navy under German supervision in their home ports. As the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill pointed out, this meant that French warships would be armed when they came under German control. At Italian suggestion the armistice terms were amended to permit the fleet to stay temporarily in North African ports, where they might be seized by Italian troops from Libya. Darlan ordered all ships in the Atlantic ports to steam to French overseas possessions, out of reach of the Germans, although not of the Italians. Despite Darlan's assurance to Churchill, Churchill had remained concerned that Darlan might be overruled by the politicians, this concern was not allayed by Darlan becoming a government minister himself. Darlan refused British requests to place the whole fleet in British custody, in attempts to get the British to release French warships gave a version of the armistice terms inconsistent with what the British knew from other sources to be the case.
British lack of confidence that Darlan wa
Henri Philippe Benoni Omer Joseph Pétain known as Philippe Pétain, Marshal Pétain and The Old Marshal, was a French Nazi collaborator and general officer who attained the position of Marshal of France at the end of World War I, during which he became known as The Lion of Verdun, in World War II served as the Chief of State of Vichy France from 1940 to 1944. Pétain, 84 years old in 1940, ranks as France's oldest head of state. During World War I Pétain led the French Army to victory at the nine-month-long Battle of Verdun. After the failed Nivelle Offensive and subsequent mutinies he was appointed Commander-in-Chief and succeeded in repairing the army's confidence. Pétain emerged as a national hero. During the interwar period he was head of the peacetime French Army, commanded joint Franco-Spanish operations during the Rif War and served twice as a government Minister. With the imminent Fall of France in June 1940 in World War II, Pétain was appointed Prime Minister of France by President Lebrun at Bordeaux, the Cabinet resolved to make peace with Germany.
The entire government subsequently moved to Clermont-Ferrand to the spa town of Vichy in central France. His government voted to transform the discredited French Third Republic into the French State, an authoritarian regime that collaborated with the Nazis and the Axis Powers. After the war, Pétain was convicted for treason, he was sentenced to death, but due to his age and World War I service his sentence was commuted to life in prison and he died in 1951. Pétain was born in Cauchy-à-la-Tour in 1856, his father, Omer-Venant, was a farmer. His great-uncle, a Catholic priest, Father Abbe Lefebvre, had served in Napoleon's Grande Armée and told the young Pétain tales of war and adventure of his campaigns from the peninsulas of Italy to the Alps in Switzerland. Impressed by the tales told by his uncle, his destiny was from on determined. Pétain was a bachelor until his sixties, known for his womanising. Women were said to find his piercing blue eyes attractive. After World War I Pétain married his former girlfriend, Eugénie Hardon, "a beautiful woman", on 14 September 1920.
After rejecting Pétain's first marriage proposal, Hardon had married and divorced François de Hérain by 1914 when she was 35. At the opening of the Battle of Verdun in 1916, Pétain is said to have been fetched during the night from a Paris hotel by a staff officer who knew that he could be found with Eugénie Hardon, she had no children by Pétain but had a son from her first marriage, Pierre de Hérain, whom Pétain disliked. Pétain joined the French Army in 1876 and attended the St Cyr Military Academy in 1887 and the École Supérieure de Guerre in Paris. Between 1878 and 1899, he served in various garrisons with different battalions of the Chasseurs à pied, the elite light infantry of the French Army. Thereafter, he alternated between regimental assignments. Pétain's career progressed as he rejected the French Army philosophy of the furious infantry assault, arguing instead that "firepower kills", his views were proved to be correct during the First World War. He was promoted to captain in 1890 and major in 1900.
Unlike many French officers, he served in mainland France, never French Indochina or any of the African colonies, although he participated in the Rif campaign in Morocco. As colonel, he commanded the 33rd Infantry Regiment at Arras from 1911. In the spring of 1914, he was given command of a brigade. However, aged 58 and having been told he would never become a general, Pétain had bought a villa for retirement. Pétain led his brigade at the Battle of Guise. At the end of August 1914 he was promoted to brigadier-general and given command of the 6th Division in time for the First Battle of the Marne. After leading his corps in the spring 1915 Artois Offensive, in July 1915 he was given command of the Second Army, which he led in the Champagne Offensive that autumn, he acquired a reputation as one of the more successful commanders on the Western Front. Pétain commanded the Second Army at the start of the Battle of Verdun in February 1916. During the battle, he was promoted to Commander of Army Group Centre, which contained a total of 52 divisions.
Rather than holding down the same infantry divisions on the Verdun battlefield for months, akin to the German system, he rotated them out after only two weeks on the front lines. His decision to organise truck transport over the "Voie Sacrée" to bring a continuous stream of artillery and fresh troops into besieged Verdun played a key role in grinding down the German onslaught to a final halt in July 1916. In effect, he applied the basic principle, a mainstay of his teachings at the École de Guerre before World War I: "le feu tue!" or "firepower kills!"—in this case meaning French field artillery, which fired over 15 million shells on the Germans during the first five months of the battle. Although Pétain did say "On les aura!", the other famous quotation attributed to him – "Ils ne passeront pas!" – was uttered by
French destroyer Jaguar
The French destroyer Jaguar was a Chacal-class destroyer built for the French Navy during the 1920s. She spent most of her pre-World War II career as a flagship for various destroyer units; the ship was assigned convoy escort duties in the Atlantic after the start of the World War II in September 1939 until she was badly damaged during a collision in January 1940. Five months after her repairs were completed, she was committed to the English Channel after the Battle of France began in May 1940. Jaguar had to beach herself; the Chacal-class ships were designed to counter the large Italian Leone-class destroyers. They had an overall length of 126.8 meters, a beam of 11.1 meters, a draft of 4.1 meters. The ships displaced 2,126 metric tons at standard and 2,980–3,075 metric tons at deep load, they were powered by two geared steam turbines, each driving one propeller shaft, using steam provided by five du Temple boilers. The turbines were designed to produce 50,000 metric horsepower, which would propel the ship at 35.5 knots.
During her sea trials on 18 May 1926, Jaguar's turbines provided 57,850 metric horsepower and she reached 35.27 knots for a single hour. The ships carried 530 metric tons of fuel oil which gave them a range of 3,000 nautical miles at 15 knots, their crew consisted of 10 officers and 187 crewmen in peacetime and 12 officers and 209 enlisted men in wartime. Jaguar was unique among the Chacals in being fitted to serve as a flagship and equipped to accommodate the admiral and his staff of four officers; the main armament of the Chacal-class ships consisted of five Canon de 130 mm Modèle 1919 guns in single mounts, one superfiring pair fore and aft of the superstructure and the fifth gun abaft the aft funnel. The guns were numbered'1' to'5' from front to rear, their anti-aircraft armament consisted of two Canon de 75 mm modèle 1924 guns in single mounts positioned amidships. The ships carried two above-water triple sets of 550-millimeter torpedo tubes. A pair of depth charge chutes were built into their stern.
They were fitted with four depth-charge throwers for which they carried a dozen 100-kilogram depth charges. Jaguar, named after the eponymous feline, was ordered on 18 April 1922 from the Arsenal de Lorient, she was laid down on 24 August 1922 on No. 7 slipway, launched on 17 November 1923, completed on 7 October 1926 and entered service on 19 November. Completion was delayed by problems with her propulsion machinery and late deliveries by sub-contractors. Before she was formally completed, she participated in a Baltic cruise in mid-1926 and visited Dakar, French West Africa in December, she made another port visit in April 1927 at Spain. The following month she was one of the ships that escorted Gaston Doumergue, President of France, across the English Channel during his state visit to Britain. Jaguar accompanied the light cruiser Lamotte-Picquet as she visited Dakar and Buenos Aires, Argentina between June and September; the ship became the flagship of the Group of Torpedo Boat Flotillas of the 1st Squadron, based at Toulon, on 1 May 1928.
Two months she hosted Doumerge as he reviewed the fleet off Le Havre on 3 July. Two years the ship participated in the naval review at Algiers on 10 May 1930 commemorating the centenary of the first French landing in Algeria on 13 June 1830; the four depth charge throwers were removed in 1932. About two years the 75-millimeter guns were replaced by four twin mounts for 13.2-millimeter anti-aircraft machineguns. Jaguar became the flagship of the 2nd Torpedo Boat Flotilla of the 2nd Squadron at Brest on 5 July 1935. After completing their maneuvers, the combined Brest and Toulon squadrons, including Jaguar, were reviewed in the Baie de Douarnenez by the Naval Minister, François Piétri, on 27 June 1936; the following year, the ship participated in the fleet review by the new Navy Minister, Alphonse Gasnier-Duparc, off Brest on 27 May 1937. The ship was relieved as flagship on 26 September, but temporarily resumed her former role from 1 March to 22 June 1939 while Bison was under repair after a collision.
When the war started in September 1939, Jaguar belonged to the 2nd Large Destroyer Division with her sisters Chacal and Léopard. Between October and December, the ship had two depth-charge throwers reinstalled, No. 3 gun removed, her depth charge stowage reduced to a dozen 200 kg and eight 100 kg depth charges to improve her stability. She was assigned to the Western Command for convoy escort duties from October to January 1940 where she guarded convoys traveling between Gibraltar and Brest as well as Casablanca, French Morocco, Le Verdon-sur-Mer. On the night of 16/17 January 1940, Jaguar was accidentally rammed by the British destroyer Keppel; the collision killed one crewman aboard the French ship and Keppel's bow penetrated all the way to Jaguar's midline. The ship was able to reach Brest on 19 January to begin repairs, she had a British Type 123 ASDIC installed in March and was fitted with degaussing equipment the following month. After the beginning of the Battle of France on 10 May, the 2nd DCT was transferred to the English Channel to support British forces there.
On 23 May, entering Dunkirk harbor with a demolition team aboard, Jaguar was struck by a torpedo f
The Dunkirk evacuation, code-named Operation Dynamo known as the Miracle of Dunkirk, was the evacuation of Allied soldiers during World War II from the beaches and harbour of Dunkirk, in the north of France, between 26 May and 4 June 1940. The operation commenced after large numbers of Belgian and French troops were cut off and surrounded by German troops during the six-week long Battle of France. In a speech to the House of Commons, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called this "a colossal military disaster", saying "the whole root and core and brain of the British Army" had been stranded at Dunkirk and seemed about to perish or be captured. In his "we shall fight on the beaches" speech on 4 June, he hailed their rescue as a "miracle of deliverance". After Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, France and the British Empire declared war on Germany and imposed an economic blockade; the British Expeditionary Force was sent to help defend France. After the Phoney War of October 1939 to April 1940, Germany invaded Belgium, the Netherlands, France on 10 May 1940.
Three of their panzer corps attacked through the Ardennes and drove northwest to the English Channel. By 21 May German forces had trapped the BEF, the remains of the Belgian forces, three French field armies along the northern coast of France. Commander of the BEF, General Viscount Gort saw evacuation across the Channel as the best course of action, began planning a withdrawal to Dunkirk, the closest good port. Late on 23 May, a halt order was issued by Generaloberst Gerd von Rundstedt, commander of Army Group A. Adolf Hitler approved the order the next day and had the German High Command send confirmation to the front. Destroying the trapped BEF, Belgian armies was left to the Luftwaffe until the order was rescinded on 26 May; this gave trapped Allied forces time to construct defensive works and pull back large numbers of troops to fight the Battle of Dunkirk. From 28 to 31 May, in the Siege of Lille, the remaining 40,000 men of the once-formidable French First Army fought a delaying action against seven German divisions, including three armoured divisions.
On the first day only 7,669 Allied soldiers were evacuated, but by the end of the eighth day, 338,226 of them had been rescued by a hastily assembled fleet of over 800 boats. Many troops were able to embark from the harbour's protective mole onto 39 British Royal Navy destroyers, four Royal Canadian Navy destroyers, a variety of civilian merchant ships, while others had to wade out from the beaches, waiting for hours in shoulder-deep water; some were ferried to the larger ships by what came to be known as the little ships of Dunkirk, a flotilla of hundreds of merchant marine boats, fishing boats, pleasure craft and lifeboats called into service from Britain. The BEF lost 68,000 soldiers during the French campaign and had to abandon nearly all of its tanks and equipment. In his speech to the House of Commons on 4 June, Churchill reminded the country that "we must be careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations." In September 1939, after Nazi Germany invaded Poland, the United Kingdom sent the British Expeditionary Force to aid in the defence of France, landing at Cherbourg and Saint-Nazaire.
By May 1940 the force consisted of ten divisions in three corps under the command of General John Vereker, 6th Viscount Gort. Working with the BEF were the Belgian Army and the French First and Ninth Armies. During the 1930s, the French had constructed the Maginot Line, a series of fortifications along their border with Germany; this line had been designed to deter a German invasion across the Franco-German border and funnel an attack into Belgium, which could be met by the best divisions of the French Army. Thus, any future war would take place outside of French territory, avoiding a repeat of the First World War; the area to the north of the Maginot Line was covered by the wooded Ardennes region, which French General Philippe Pétain declared to be "impenetrable" as long as "special provisions" were taken. He believed that any enemy force emerging from the forest would be vulnerable to a pincer attack and destroyed; the French commander-in-chief, Maurice Gamelin believed the area to be of a limited threat, noting that it "never favoured large operations".
With this in mind, the area was left defended. The initial plan for the German invasion of France called for an encirclement attack through the Netherlands and Belgium, avoiding the Maginot Line. Erich von Manstein Chief of Staff of the German Army Group A, prepared the outline of a different plan and submitted it to the OKH via his superior, Generaloberst Gerd von Rundstedt. Manstein's plan suggested that Panzer divisions should attack through the Ardennes establish bridgeheads on the Meuse River and drive to the English Channel; the Germans would thus cut off the Allied armies in Belgium. This part of the plan became known as the Sichelschnitt. Adolf Hitler approved a modified version of Manstein's ideas, today known as the Manstein Plan, after meeting with him on 17 February. On 10 May, Germany invaded the Netherlands. Army Group B, under Generaloberst Fedor von Bock, attacked into Belgium, while the three Panzer corps of Army Group A under Rundstedt swung around to the south and drove for the Channel.
The BEF advanced from the Belgian border to positions along the River Dyle within Belgium, where they fought elements of Army Group B starting on 10 May. They were ordered to begin a fighting withdrawal to the Scheldt River on 14 May when the Belgian and French positions on their flanks failed to hold. During a visit to Paris on 17 May, Prime Minis