27 AUGUST 1983, Page 17

The Vichy fleet

Sir: 1 feel that Richard West's reference in his article 'France's old friend' (13 August) to 'Churchill's catastrophic decision to shell and sink the Vichy fleet at Mers-el-Kebir' cannot go unchallenged.

The Vichy fleet at Mers-el-Kebir, which included the battleship Richelieu, would have been a continual threat to the Allies. Had it been in German hands, not only would the Vichy fleet have jeopardised the North African campaign and Sicilian landings, but its continued existence would

have damagingly tied up the British Mediterranean fleet.

To my knowledge, it has never been seriously suggested that to have left the Vichy fleet intact would have worked to the advantage of the Briti sh.

C. E. Voyce -

The Birches, Austenwood Lane, Chalfont St Peter, Bucks