3 SEPTEMBER 1943, Page 13


SIR,—Referring to the review of Hitler Divided France in your issue of August 27th, I suggest that the already perplexed public will have

cause here for further confusion. A passage on the armistice is quoted, presumably as an example of enlightenment provided by the English authors of the book, for your reviewer's comment is: " Of all the books about France published since the armistice I believe this to be one of the sanest and most enlightening." The passage quoted is: " Had France refused to sign the armistice and the Government gone to North Africa or London, could 'anything have been done by the Allies to prevent the total occupation of North Africa by Germany in the autumn of 1940? With the complete control of the Mediterranean in 1940 in Axis hands, what, many Frenchmen ask, would be the fate of the African continent today? It was the French armistice and the attentiste policy of the Vichy Government which kept the Germans out of North Africa until the Allied Nations had gathered sufficient strength."

This may be good -propaganda on behalf of the Vichy Government for those totally blind to- the facts of the situation, but it will not bear even the most cursory examination. The British Government did not

lightheartedly urge the French-Government to withdraw to North Africa in June, 1940. It is well known that without the assistance of the

French Navy or the use of French air bases in North Africa, the Mediterranean became a closed route to Allied,, merchant shipping except in heavily escorted convoys and accepting grievous losses.

How was the Axis to conquer French North Africa with the French Navy and Army in North Africa defending their territory instead of collaborating with the enemy? The British Mediterranean Fleet was not negligible, and managed to give quite a good account of itself without any Allied assistance. Is there any reason to suppose that the Italian Fleet would have displayed more enthusiasm in supporting a German invasion of Tunisia and subsequently Algeria than they have done in defending their own home land? I can vouch for the fact that our Mediterranean Fleet would have welcomed such aggressive action by the Italian Fleet, and that our Home Fleet would equally have welcomed a sortie by the German Fleet to break out and join the Italian Fleet in the Mediterranean. No, Sir, sea power still counts for some- thing, as both Axis partners well know.

With regard to the contention that the French Government's decision has been justified by events, I offer the thesis that had they continued resistance, from North Africa, that continent would have been cleared of all Axis forces at least a year sooner than it has been and that we should be that much nearer the end of the European war. But there is no end to such speculations when one considers all the implications ; for example, the necessary diversion of our few available forces to operate against Vichy possessions, which were a very real threat to us, viz.,

Dakar, Syria, Madagascar. And the reactions of the French clesertion were not favourable to our cause in 194o in the U.S.A., for it was assumed there, at least for some time, that we were down and out.—For reasons you can appreciate I only sign myself, " SIMPLE SAILOR,"