Fantasque Time Line (France Fights On) - English Translation

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June 23rd, 1940

Western Mediterranean
- Sansonetti's squadron turns back. A LeO H-470 of the E11 squadron detects the Italian ships and manages to keep contact and alert Karouba, despite the flak. The Italians owe to the very bad weather conditions their escape from the Laté 298 of the HB1 and HB2 squadrons. Only LV Baron, commander of the HB1, manages to find them, but his bombs miss their target. The Italian force hastens toback to Cagliari.
These ships do not linger in Sardinia: a French reconnaissance plane having flown for a long time over the port, the command of the Aeronautics of Sardinia advises them to leave to avoid being caught at anchor. They return to Naples during the night without having had the opportunity to fight with the 4th Cruiser Division (Montcalm, Gloire, Georges-Leygues, Rear Admiral Bourrague) and the 10th Division of destroyers (L'Audacieux, Le Fantasque and Le Terrible) which cover the convoys west of Sardinia.
The next day, Italian cruisers and destroyers held in reserve between Sardinia and Sicily will also leave for their bases in Naples (CA Bolzano, Pola and Trento, 10th destroyer division), Messina (CL Colleoni and Bande Nere, 12th destroyer division) and Taranto (CA Gorizia, Fiume, Zara, 9th destroyer division).
June 23rd, 1940

- Martin 167s of the Aéronavale leave to attack Sicilian airfields (notably Comiso, Castelvetrano and Catania).
Covered by the Potez 631 of the AC2, the Laté 298 of the T1 and T2 squadrons start their patrols in the Gulf of Syrte.
Three Bloch MB-174 fast reconnaissance aircraft of the GR II/33 land at Hal-Far, followed by two Bloch MB-220 transport aircraft (ex-Air France), bringing the ground echelon and spare parts. Called "Malta Squadron", these planes have to ensure the surveillance of Taranto and all the Italian ports in the region. The number of personnel will gradually increase up to six MB-174s, to which are sometimes added two Amiot 351s, capable of reaching Rhodes and the Dodecanese. The Malta squadron will soon be renowned for its ability to monitor the slightest movements of the Regia Marina without fear of interference from Italian fighters (the Bloch MB-174 is 30 to 40 km/h faster than the fastest Italian fighter of the moment, the MC.200, which is still forbidden from flying).
June 23rd, 1940

Central Mediterranean
- More fortunate than its comrade Caïman the day before, the submarine MN Requin (L.V. Prévost-Sansac de Traversay), which was patrolling further east, surprises the Monte Gargano at dawn off Libya, in front of Misrata. Of its spray of three torpedoes, only one finds its mark, but its target does not survive: its efforts to run aground are in vain and it sinks in shallow water [1].

[1] Once the records are verified after the war, the Requin will be recognized as the first French submarine to have sunk an enemy ship with a torpedo in this war, the Rubis being the first in all categories thanks to its mines.
June 23rd, 1940

- Following discussions between the French and British Admiralty, the naval air component of the allied fleets begins to be reinforced. The aircraft carrier Béarn, escorted by the cruiser Jeanne d'Arc, arrives from the United States. The Béarn carries 17 Curtiss Hawk 75A-4 fighters (including 2 in boxes), 44 Curtiss SBC-4 (Helldiver) bombers, 5 denavalized Brewster B-339s (initially destined for Belgium) and 25 Stinson 105 training and liaison aircraft (in crates). The Jeanne d'Arc carries 6 Curtiss Hawk 75A-4 and 8 Stinson 105, all packed in crates.
The Jeanne d'Arc leaves for Halifax on the 26th, this time with the Commandant-Teste (who was to arrive from Malta), to pick up other aircraft, including the last SBC-4s. Commandant-Teste is not faster than the Béarn, but it is well adapted to transporting aircraft. For the carrier, on the other hand, it is imperative to start training its air group, even though it is still incomplete. The ship is operational: it had undergone a complete overhaul in 1938/39. The B-339s he needs to refit (or not to denavalize) will arrive on the Normandie, at the speed of a Blue Ribbon crossing of the Atlantic.
Finally, a symbol of the close cooperation between two fleets that were once hereditary enemies: the French reinforce the HMS Eagle's meager air group with 6 Brewster B-339 and 10 SBC-4, because the Béarn can only carry 20 B-339 and 20 SBC-4, and the old British carrier is desperately short of aircraft...
June 23rd, 1940

Toulouse, 09:00
- General Kœltz, arriving from North Africa, reads to the National Defense Council a note from General Noguès: "North Africa, with its current resources, the aviation reinforcements in progress, which are of capital importance, and with the support of the nfleet, is in a position to resist the enemy's attempts for a long time.
The threat from the Spanish side, in my opinion, constitutes the main danger, unless the negotiations
should reach a satisfactory conclusion. If the diplomatic route fails, the matter will have to be settled by preventive action, which will be initiated, with your agreement, as soon as the Italian and German forces enter Spanish territory. I can undertake this operation, which will have as its main asset a political and religious action on the natives, with the forces at my disposal, by taking certain elements in Tunisia where I will remain temporarily on the defensive. The chances of success would be greatly increased if I could be reinforced with armored units, anti-tank and anti-aircraft means, possibly in large units. In the event that this operation could not succeed, the Sebou and the Ouergha constitute a good line of defense against the armored vehicles in the most dangerous directions (Rabat-Fez).
The ground operations in Tripolitania were initiated. They could not take on the character of a large-scale action during the hot season. It is however possible, through the use of auxiliary forces, guided by Tripolitan refugees, to trigger small uprisings and to create insecurity in the enemy's rear. In September-October, on the contrary, deep offensive operations could be undertaken with the means of North African forces reinforced by new units that will have been created thanks to British and American assistance.
The stocks of fuel and ammunition correspond to about two months of operations. A replenishment is to be undertaken immediately. I consider it essential that, whatever the situation in
situation in the Metropole, it is essential to make an effort to send, in the next few days, all the troops, all the personnel, all the equipment possible. I am handing over to General
Kœltz the list of the most indispensable needs, in particular educated French cadres, individual and collective infantry weapons, anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns, tanks, 75 mm guns, trucks. It will then be necessary that the supplies and reinforcements of North Africa be taken care of by England and America."

Toulouse, 11:30 - De Gaulle is both delighted with Noguès's fighting spirit and very disappointed that he seems to rule out any large-scale offensive action against the Italians before September. He hurries to telephone him: "You will receive, you are already receiving all the reinforcements you could wish for," he tells him in substance. "We have, as you know, diverted to you all the arrivals of American equipment and this is already giving your units an unprecedented power. But for North Africa to become the cradle of our future victory, it is absolutely necessary to attack Tripolitania in mid-July. The President of the Council has fully reassured me as to the Spanish attitude, and negotiations are going very well. The hot season, no doubt, is not favorable to the offensive in desert terrain, but the Italians will suffer as much as you do from the heat and above all, the main task in this offensive will be entrusted to the mechanized units, which do not have the water needs of horse-drawn troops. Already, our air force is in the process of annihilating the enemy's and the fleet is strangling his communications. On the other hand, what could be the situation in October? Winners in France, the Germans will not fail to come to the rescue of the Italians in Africa, with the help of
Italians in Africa, with their planes, or even with troops! No, there is not a day to lose. General Noguès ! France is counting on you to win its first victory!

Alger, 11:30 - Noguès' aide-de-camp, who was listening to the telephone conversation, sees his chief stand up as he listens to De Gaulle's harangue. He almost stands to attention to answer: "Mr. Minister, I had been waiting for months for someone to say something like this. The African Army will do all its duty, and more if necessary. Long live France!"
After hanging up, Noguès remains silent for a moment, then calls out to his aide-de-camp:
"Organize a staff meeting as soon as possible with Blanc [commander of the troops in Tunisia] Bessières [commander of the Northern Front of Tunisia], Poupinel [commander of the Southern Front of Tunisia] and especially Clouet des Perruches [6th DLC] and the heads of the mobile units available. It will be time for them to show us what their mechanical machines
can do, that a good cavalryman could not succeed in doing."
June 23rd, 1940

Libya (Tripolitania)
- Air interdiction operations continue unabated.
Tripoli is violently bombed during a "massive" raid by 81 LeO-451s. Launched from 6,000 meters, the bombs hit their targets (warehouses), but also residential neighbourhoods, killing and injuring 109 people and causing panic among the local population.
Benghazi is also attacked by LeO-451s (27 aircraft). The Air Force carries out 507 offensive missions during the day.
On the ground, the French Army begins to launch probing attacks to evaluate the Italian defences on the Tunisian-Libyan border, with the help of light Potez 63.11 bombers and LN-401/411 dive bombers. A lone SM.79, then a Ca.309 reconnaissance plane are destroyed between the lines by four Curtiss H-75 on patrol.

At the end of the third day of the French air offensive over Italian North Africa, the situation of the Regia Aeronautica in ASI is as follows.
(i) - 13th Fighter Group (on Fiat CR.42 and CR.32, Castelbenito) - This unit, currently being re-equipped with the "modern" Fiat CR.42, paid a very heavy price, losing 5 CR.42s and 4 CR.32 in aerial combat, and 13 aircraft on the ground. It only has twelve CR.42s left (seven of which are in flying condition) and two damaged CR.32s (one of which will be repaired).
- 8th fighter group (on Fiat CR.32, Castelbenito) - This unit also suffered a lot, losing 8 planes in aerial combat, one damaged on landing and 14 destroyed on the ground. It has only four CR.32 left, two of which are operational.
(ii) - 15th Bombing Stormo (on SM.79, Castelbenito) - Four bombers were shot down in air combat and 14 destroyed on the ground. Of the twelve surviving aircraft, eight are operational.
(iii) - 1st Sahara Reconnaissance Group (on Ca.309, Mellaha): one aircraft shot down, seven destroyed on the ground. Of the six surviving planes, three are operational.
- 26th independent reconnaissance group (on Ca.309, Hon): nine planes destroyed by Potez strafing and one lost over the border. Of the seven surviving planes, five are operational.
- 122nd reconnaissance squadron (on Ro.37bis, Mellaha): six planes destroyed on the ground. Of the five surviving planes, two are operational.
- 136th reconnaissance squadron (on Ro.37bis, Tripoli): five planes destroyed on the ground. Of the four surviving planes, two are operational.
In three days, the Regia Aeronautica lost 92 aircraft and the Italian army has practically no longer has any air cover in Tripolitania. Was the air war already over?
This situation leads the Italian HQ in Libya to request immediate reinforcements. The 9th Fighter Group (independent), deployed in Gorizia (Veneto), receives the order to transfer its 24 Fiat CR.42s to Sicily, before moving to Libya to replace the 13th group, which is very tired.
SuperAereo (the high command of the Regia Aeronautica) begins to collect Fiat CR.42s in various Italian depots to send them to Africa, where many pilots no longer have a plane (in addition to the losses caused by the fighting, the biplanes suffer - like all planes - from the omnipresent sand). About forty aircraft will be gathered.
June 23rd, 1940

- A fast three-engine SM.79 takes pictures of the harbor, as it has done several times since June 10th, and is about to escape, accustomed to not being threatened by the slow Gladiator biplanes used by RAF squadrons in the area. But this time, warned by the airborne warning system, a formation of three MS-406s led by Péronne takes off. After 15 minutes of hunting, the three French fighters take down the the SM.79, which falls near Mersa-Matruh.
Nevertheless, the Italian had time to report by radio to his base that the port was almost empty of warships.
June 23rd, 1940

- Destroyers Basque, Forbin and Le Fortuné, which returned from Cyprus on the 18th, leave Haifa for Alexandria, escorting the British tankers British Commodore and Duffield.
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June 23rd, 1940

Northern France
- The French forces that can do so begin a vast withdrawal. It is planned to hold on a "stoppage line" which goes from the estuary of the Gironde to the north of Valence, with a large salient encompassing most of the Massif Central (northern tip at Argenton-sur-Creuse), then extends to Grenoble and goes up towards Switzerland.

Brittany - Almost the entire province is occupied.
Lorient - During the last evacuations, the defenders of the city, commanded by Admiral Penfentenyo, fight a last battle at the Cinq-Chemins de Guidel. The admiral has the gates of the basins destroyed and sets fire to the gasoline tanks and the oil tanks of Priatec, as well as those near the Gueydon bridge (on the left bank of the arsenal). The fuel from the ruptured tanks spills into the Scorff, which is covered in flames.
The town surrenders in the evening. The Germans find the hull of the future light cruiser De Grasse, abandoned with those of two aviso-minesweepers. They also find some old vessels, some of which have been scuttled.
June 23rd, 1940

Loire front
- The first echelon of the VIIth Army, in order to avoid being caught from behind, retreats to the Creuse.
During the night of the 23rd to the 24th, the second echelon withdraws in turn, according to the tactics ordered by General Frère.
This retreat does not prevent some counter-attacks: a free group of the 11th ID organizes a motorized column of volunteers and drives 50 km through enemy-controlled terrain to recover the 2,400 men of the 26th RI and the 8th DIC who were holding the rear guard around Graçay (between Indre and Cher) and were about to be encircled.
Amboise to Angers sector - At Saumur, the Germans attack again and succeed in creating a bridgehead south of the river. This time, the defenders are too weakened to counterattack effectively and have to be content with limiting the expansion of the bridgehead. The Germans are able to move their guns and artillery observers away from the bridges, which their engineers immediately begin to repair.
In Angers itself, the Germans redouble their efforts. After a day of furious fighting supported by their air force, which is once again omnipresent over the battlefield, they manage to keep a bridgehead south of the Loire river.
Angers to Nantes sector - The first German vehicles enter Nantes.
June 23rd, 1940

- Despite the determination of its defenders, Moulins falls.
The IVth Army is ordered to defend the valleys of the Allier, the 23rd CA west of the river, the 8th CA to the east. The 14th ID reorganizes itself in Montaigut (where it was reinforced this time by a detachment of the 13th RM...) and the 10th ID moves towards Puy-en-Velay, where it will try to regroup and sort out the isolated and the stragglers.
The German columns, led by the 10. PzD, cross the Canal du Centre in the Digoin and Paray-le-Monial sectors and start to go up the Loire towards Roanne, slowed down by numerous traffic jams and harassments. The first echelon of units defending the Canal du Centre retreats to the Monts du Mâconnais, then to the Beaujolais.
June 23rd, 1940

- His ammunition exhausted and under the threat of an attack in force, Condé, with a heavy heart, has to negotiate his surrender. On the advice of his chief of staff, Colonel Tessier, he indicates that it applies only to the units of his IInd Army that he can still command, thus leaving the other encircled pockets free to continue the fight on their own...
This surrender precedes that of General Carles (IIIrd Army) by only a few hours, in identical circumstances.
June 24th, 1940

Sicilia and Sardinia
- The Martin 167 and the Potez 631 of Malta attack Sicily (Catania and Palermo), while the Decimomannu and Cagliari areas, in Sardinia, are attacked by
by LeO-451s from Africa. The success of the raid on Cagliari-Elmas is limited, because the objective is partially masked by some low clouds, but the one on Decimomannu, in superb weather, inflicts serious losses on the 32nd Stormo. The only cover being represented by a dozen Fiat CR.32 based in Montserrato, the fast French bombers return to their base without losses. The attack against the Sicilian airfields is more costly. Two Martins and a Potez are shot down by flak and by a patrol of three Fiat CR.42, but the SM.79s well aligned on the Catania airfield are an impossible target to miss and several CR.42s are destroyed on the ground in Palermo.
At noon, nine LN-401/411 dive-bomb the port of Cagliari, sinking a coaster and destroying most of the heavy lifting equipment. At dusk, the Laté 298 of the 3S6, based in Aspretto, attack the port of Olbia, where they damage a cargo ship.
263 - Calabrian Tango
June 24th, 1940

Central Mediterranean
- While destroyers Simone Schiaffino, Giuseppe Dezza, Giuseppe La Farina and Giuseppe-Cesare Abba (5th destroyer squadron, based in Messina) patrol off the coast of Calabria on anti-submarine warfare missions, these destroyers literally come face to face with the B Force of the Operation BQ, which is heading for the Strait in the early afternoon. It does not take long for the Italians to realize that they were no match for the Allied ships and flee as quickly as possible, but the three British cruisers and two destroyers pursue them. The situation does not look good for the Italian ships as the Abba and Dezza are hit hard by shells from the HMS Liverpool and Gloucester,
the Schiaffino is more lightly hit by the HMS Orion. But the battle changes its character when the CA Gorizia, Fiume, Zara and the 9th Division of destroyers, on their way to
Taranto, appear. This time, it is up to the British to take the tangent and the Italians to continue, and the HMS Janus is slightly hit.
At that moment, a message from Supermarina informs the Italian squadron that, "for at least 24 hours and perhaps 48 hours, two to four battleships, an aircraft carrier and numerous cruisers and destroyers have left Alexandria" [1]. As the sun set, the commander of the Italian heavy cruisers realizes that he is in danger of running into something stronger than him - In fact, the HMS Warspite and her escort are hurrying to meet Force B. At nightfall, the Italian squadron turns around and heads back to Messina, to cover the retreat of the destroyers (the Abba and the Dezza have several months of repairs ahead of them).
The episode causes one collateral victim. Three Laté 298s from T2, which took off from Malta to attack the Italian heavy cruisers, did not find them but discover and attack the light cruiser Giuseppe Garibaldi. Having left Reggio Calabria, the Garibaldi tried to reach Benghazi at full speed. The ship escapes the bombs, but gives up its mission and returns to Reggio when it is announced that the Allied fleet was probably at sea between it and Africa.
The skirmish became known in the Royal Navy as the "Calabrian tango" (one step forward, two steps back...) and in the Regia Marina as "Giuseppe's day" (four ships with this name were involved).
Around 22:00, Italian battleships Conte di Cavour and Giulio Cesare leave Taranto heading south with a large escort, composed of the 7th and 8th Destroyer squadrons (Dardo, Freccia, Saetta, Strale and Baleno, Folgore, Fulmine, Lampo), the usual escort for these battleships, as well as the 4th Cruiser Division of Admiral Marenco di Moriondo (CL Da Barbiano, Cadorna, Di Giussano, Armando Diaz) and the 15th Destroyer Squadron (Zeno, Da Mosto, Da Verrazzano, Malocello), who plan to escort the modern Littorio-class battleships.

[1] This is only the first of many occasions when information collected by the Regia Aeronautica will take long hours to be transmitted to the Regia Marina.
June 23rd, 1940

Eastern Mediterranean
- In Beirut, submarines Protée, Espadon and Phoque are returning from their patrol in the Dodecanese. The Acheron and Actéon are preparing to relieve them, while the Dauphin completes its refit. The net anchor ship Le Gladiateur is expected from Alexandria.
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