Warfare History Network
Thanks to France.
How Winston Churchill Attacked What Could Have Been Hitler's 'New' Battleship
As the morning wore on, the British signaled quite visibly and “in clear” to French ships their offer to welcome the French ships into the British fleet. They had supposed that the French commanders might withhold that information from their sailors but that the sailors, being aware of it, might tip the tide of opinion to the British favor. Indeed, one witness later said that during the time of the negotiations the French sailors seemed to go about their duties with exceptional lethargy and remorse.
Steaming through the summer Mediterranean night, the world having gone sour in two awful months, British Vice Admiral Sir James Somerville read the message just sent to him from London: “You are charged with one of the most disagreeable and difficult tasks that a British Admiral has ever been faced with, but we have complete confidence in you and rely on you to carry it out relentlessly.” The message was received with a heavier heart than the sender—Prime Minister Winston Churchill—surmised. Somerville not only found the task highly offensive, he was also opposed to it. Nevertheless, there it was. Duty. Orders. Had to be obeyed.