Fantasque Time Line (France Fights On) - English Translation

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July 15th, 1940

Libya (Cyrenaica)
- Two columns of the 2nd CC.NN. Division attack simultaneously Fort Capuzzo and Ridotta Maddalena... and are simultaneously repulsed with serious losses.
The defenders are men of the Western Desert Force. For them as for the Blackshirts, it is the baptism of fire, but they have much better training and the support of few "Cruiser" tanks, which make mincemeat of the Italian tankettes.
July 15th, 1940

Southwestern France
- The Rochefort - Angoulême - Limoges defense line begins to break down; threatened of encirclement by the breakthrough of the XIV. AK (mot), the defenders of Limousin (Army of Paris, VIth and VIIth Armies) retreat to the Dordogne and the Lot. This withdrawal is made possible by... the high degree of motorization of the remaining French units (in particular in the VIIth Army), motorization favored by the requisition of everything that rolls and the low number of units. And after two months of conflict under a sky dominated by the enemy, the French have learned to move by night and to camouflage themselves by day.
For two days now, in the Bloch factories of Bègles, Bacalan and Mérignac, production has almost stopped, because there is no longer any hope of avoiding the coming fall of Bordeaux; the vanguard of the Wehrmacht is not far away. The machine tools are destroyed or evacuated. Only a small team ensures the completion of the last MB-155s and their delivery to the GC II/8, still based in Mérignac. It will make good use until the last day of the last machines produced.

Colonel Dutey-Harispe, then a lieutenant in the GC II/8, remembers: "We were going through the factory looking for anything that could still be of use to us. The good lads who had built our planes without sparing any effort, helped us, with an air of following the funeral of their best friend. One of them stood desolate in front of the stopped assembly line, where there were still a few Blochs in various stages of completion, already stripped of all useful part for our own. He took me as a witness: "It makes me angry to have to demolish them all with dynamite or a blowtorch, but what could we do with them?" then had an idea, without believing it at first: "If they didn't look like airplane skeletons, we could scatter them on airfields of the area so they could take the Luftwaffe's hits for us."
The worker jumped in joy, "You're right! And it wouldn't be too hard to make them look like finished aircraft! All it would take is some canvas. A lot of the workers here have been around in the days of the SPADs. With a few sheets and a little help from the local seamstresses, we could make some real fake Bloch 155s!"
I passed the idea on to the group commander, who agreed, provided the decoys were evacuated last. It was important not to let this hinder our re-equipment. It remains that we had to find a way to get them to their destination. This was not without its lot of issues, as I was told afterwards."
(Excerpt from "Le Groupe de Chasse II/8 dans la défense de l'Ouest - D'après le journal de marche de l'unité", Editions Ouest-France, 1990)
July 15th, 1940

Rhone Valley
- The bulk of the German divisions reach the Drôme.
The Luftwaffe has overall control of the air, which does not prevent the best from having certain mishaps...

Abgeschossen ! (extract from Die Ersten und die Letzten, by General Adolf Galland)
"After the conquest of Paris, the pace of the group's operations slowed down. We only stayed at Villacoublay for a few days. It must be said that, if the terrain was practicable, the French had removed everything they could from the many hangars around, and tried to demolish the rest! We were sent back to Moenchengladbach for a few days to rest, where we received new Emils, as well as young people from the flying schools to replace our wounded comrades, prisoners or missing persons.
But this respite was short-lived. On July 10th, the group returned to France, this time to Lyon, a city that the Wehrmacht had conquered a few days earlier. There too, the Bron airfield was in a sad state. Our own bombings and the demolitions of the French had left only one hangar in good condition, which was already occupied by a group of Ju-87 that had arrived the day before. Our mechanics set up as best they could and I sent the 7th and 8th squadrons to some roughly equipped fields about ten kilometers
from there. I was well served! Indeed, as I was returning to the field after a tour in town, a formation of twin-engine English planes dropped their bombs on Bron, rather haphazardly. The light Flak shot with joy, but the English were flying too high for it to be effective.
The result: a few holes in the grass runway, but above all three Ju 52s, which had arrived shortly before with our equipment, destroyed before they could be unloaded. Luckily, neither our Messerschmitt nor the Ju 87 were hit. But all this delayed for a few days the actual resumption of operations.
I was anxious to get back in the air, and I decided to take some new people with me to reconnoiter our zone of action, mainly the Rhone valley, where the Wehrmacht was still
was still advancing.
On the afternoon of July 15th, I was on my third familiarization flight of the day, and I decided to push on to Avignon, with Sergeant Pfeiffer as wingman. Not a Frenchman in the sky! On the way back, Pfeiffer called me to report a problem with hisbinhaler. I told him to descend to 3,000 meters and go ahead, I would cover him from higher up. A minute later, while I still had my eye (the right eye!) on Pfeiffer, what I thought was a Morane swooped down on Pfeiffer. I yelled at him to get out of the way, and,
instinctively took the Morane in pursuit. Pfeiffer escaped the Frenchman's bursts of fire, but I could not get him in my sights. Worse, he was diving faster than I was! A glance behind me, another Frenchman! And at the same time, a violent blow under the engine immediately followed by a cloud of smoke. No time to lose! Jettison the canopy, unbuckle the harness, and, quickly, out! While I was descending under my parachute, I told myself that rest was not only good for the warrior: I had forgotten to watch my back, at first too preoccupied with the fate of my wingman, then because the instinct of the hunter frustrated for too long had been the strongest! And then I had to deal with the new French planes, the Dewoitine, which were going to be tougher than the old Morane [1].
But the ground was getting closer, it was not a question of breaking wood on landing! I landed in a dry riverbed, and while I was gathering my parachute as fast as I could, a snake that I must have awakened passed between my legs. That's two for the day! If I wasn't more careful, I would soon share the fate of my friend Mölders!
But nothing more happened: no peasants with pitchforks, no policemen. Far enough, just a column of smoke, probably my Emil. But the urgent thing was to find a place to hide.
A half-ruined building did the trick. Between some rotten hay and an old cart, I took stock of my situation: I was in the middle of a plain, bordered to the north and east by mountains, a few hills to the west, and more open to the south. I had two solutions: try to join the front line, almost 50 kilometers further north, avoiding the French in their retreat, or wait quietly for the Wehrmacht to catch up with me... The second solution was obviously my preference, as a self-respecting aviator does not walk on foot! But with the heat that reigned, I had to find something to drink and also to eat, and here was not where I was that I could do it.
I waited for nightfall and headed west, avoiding two villages. But at the third village, thirst being the strongest, I wove my way between houses that seemed deserted
and found a fountain where I could quench my thirst. On a signpost pointing south, I could read "Montélimar 10 km". I rinsed and filled with water an empty wine bottle that was lying on the ground not far from the fountain and, with my bottle in hand, I left the village to a wooded hill. There, tired, I fell asleep at the foot of a tree."

[1] It is interesting to note that the French Air Force did not have any D-520s in service in France at that time, except for the Toulouse area and the main Mediterranean ports. As French archives were lacking for this period, it is impossible to know what really happened.
Galland's probable error is perhaps deliberate, to embellish the account of an inglorious misadventure...
July 15th, 1940

- The banana boat Victor-Schœlcher [1] unloads in Oran the entire stock of banknote paper and inks as well as the typographic coppers of the Chamalières printing house, sent to North Africa by the Banque de France. The copper plates will be transferred to London, where the French embassy has undertaken negotiations with De La Rue [2] so that the famous British company could print, at least temporarily, the banknotes for North Africa, AOF and AEF, Madagascar and Reunion, as well as the Antilles [3].

[1] The ship (auxiliary cruiser X7, 4,500 t, 17 knots, VII x 138, II x 75AA, II x 37AA) was chosen for its speed and for its experience in "delicate" missions: it has just transported to Dakar part of the gold of the Banque de France.
[2] Initially a producer of playing cards, then of stamps, this private company from Basingstoke (Hampshire) devoted itself, at the end of the 19th century, to printing banknotes for the Bank of England and the monetary authorities in various parts of the British Empire. The reputation that it acquired earned it, and still does, to print bills for many states in Europe, Latin America and Asia.
[3] It is the Banque de l'Indochine - a private institution entrusted with a public service mission - which has the privilege to issue banknotes for Tonkin, Annam and Cochinchina, Cambodia and Laos, as well as for the French Pacific Islands and the Indian trading posts (and the French concession in Shanghai).
July 15th, 1940

- The situation evolves rapidly in the north of the massif.
The Germans finally break through the thin defensive cordon on the left bank of the Rhône, near Chambéry and Annecy. But to the surprise of the French (and the concern of the Swiss), they head towards Chamonix... and Geneva. Special order from the Führer: Switzerland must be isolated!
July 15th, 1940

- Hitler makes a lightning trip to Paris, visiting the Opera, the Sacré-Coeur, the Eiffel Tower (where he did not go up to the top, the elevator having "broken down", as it would be until the Liberation) and the Invalides. No publicity is given to this visit, because the continuation of the fighting in the south, even though there was no doubt about the outcome, made people fear an attack. A few minutes of film remain, with these striking images of the Führer smiling on the esplanade of the Trocadero, facing the Eiffel Tower.
July 16th, 1940

Strait of Gibraltar
- While the French squadron reaches Oran and Mers-el-Kébir, Force H has an agitated end to its return journey.
On the lookout at the entrance of the Strait of Gibraltar, the submarine Marconi (C.C. Giulio Chialamberto) sees an important formation coming in its direction, zigzagging at about 20 knots. Luck smiling on him, the last shot of the British squadron brings it close enough to his boat that he can consider attacking it before its next change of course. At 13:37 GMT, ignoring the official instructions concerning the use of torpedoes, he launches a spray of four torpedoes at 2,950 metres. This one is spotted a little too late by one of the Swordfish of the HMS Ark Royal on patrol above Force H.
The battleship HMS Resolution can only avoid one of the two torpedoes that are heading straight for her. The other hits her on her starboard side and the amount of water on board causes her to take a list of 15°.
While the Marconi, diving beyond the normal limit (120 m), manages to escape the counter-attack of the destroyers (Chialamberto will count at least 80 depth charge explosions), the Resolution is able to reach Gibraltar. It will take three months to reach England for full repair. This repair is accompanied by a modernization, it would not be operational until November 1941.
Its success earns Chialamberto the Medaglia d'Oro al Valore militare.
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July 16th, 1940

Off Augusta (Sicily)
- Less fortunate than the Marconi, the English submarine HMS Phoenix, which tried to attack the tanker Dora, is depth charged and sunk by the Italian torpedo boat Albatros.
July 16th, 1940

- The Sydney Star disembarks its passengers and cargo without delay.
The first ones will leave the next day for Alexandria on the destroyers MN L'Indomptable and Le Malin. The cargo follows on the 19th on two Italian freighters seized on June 11th, 1940 in the French Mediterranean ports, the Capo Olmo (4,712 GRT) and Tagliamento (5,448 GRT), escorted by the entire 8th TD (Bordelais, Alcyon, Trombe).
Everyone arrives safely in Egypt, respectively on the morning of July 18th (the destroyers having sailed at "only" 30 knots, to save fuel) and on the evening of July 22nd.
As for the Sydney Star, provisionally repaired in Tunis and then Gibraltar, she will be completely repaired in Liverpool.
July 16th, 1940

- Without ever having fought, the SM.85 dive bombers, which equipped the 96° Gruppo Tuffatori (or Gruppo Bombardamento a Tuffo, Dive Bombing Group) of the Maggiore Ercolano Ercolani, are officially withdrawn from service. It must be said that the aircraft has an annoying propensity to go into uncontrollable spins when doing nose dives. Moreover, twin-engine but under-engined, its too long resource time makes it an easy prey for the enemy's flak. Moreover, its entirely wooden structure does not endure the humid atmosphere of the Mediterranean very well...
As no other Italian aircraft are available, the pilots go to Graz, in Ostmark (formerly Austria) to be trained in the handling of the Ju 87 Stuka. Mussolini obtained from Hitler the delivery of a few dozen of these aircraft, but the Italians are only entitled to the B2 version and not to the D version, more recent and clearly superior.
July 16th, 1940

Libya (Tripolitania)
- The Sabratha division, seeing a hundred tanks coming straight at it, slow but apparently invulnerable, cracks. Worn out by months spent in an inhospitable country, poorly trained, lacking any air support or heavy artillery, the men run away or start to surrender to the Chasseurs d'Afrique that accompany the French tanks. The latter crushes the few strong points that persist, increasing the panic. In a few hours, the entire division is dissolved. However, this sudden collapse is not a common characteristic of all Italian units.
The defenders at the southern end of the Italian front are now cut off from their rear and several companies of the Bologna Division surrender, while the Savona attempts to withdraw to the northeast. At the end of the day, the 16th BLM (Light Motorized Brigade) begins to take over from the "heavy" tanks, whose mechanics do not like the sand, for the exploitation in depth. This effort is aided by the 3rd Moroccan Division, reinforced for the occasion with artillery.
July 16th, 1940

Western France
- The French front gives way west of Angoulême. Hoth's panzers take advantage of this breakthrough and rush to Bordeaux along the Nationale 10. But each village on the road is transformed into a fortress and puts up a fierce resistance that has to be crushed, which slows down the attackers considerably.
Faced with the imminent fall of Bordeaux, Mandel proposes to evacuate Marshal Pétain, who had been hospitalized there for a month, to Algeria. But the doctors are opposed to this trip - the Marshal's condition has indeed worsened and he does not seem to be able to recover.

Rhone Valley - Adolf Galland is still out there...
"I was awakened the next morning, July 16th, by the sound of planes passing overhead. Despite my decision not to move while waiting for my compatriots, curiosity being the strongest, I climbed in the afternoon to the top of the hill, from where the view reached very far. Great luck! French people must have been there until recently, since the remains of a campfire were clearly visible. Rummaging around, I found a bottle of wine - full this time - and two forgotten cans of food. I had a late and unrefined lunch, but it was comforting. In the afternoon, however, I fell asleep - the wine was treacherous, and I didn't wake up until it was the middle of the night, with a violent headache to boot. Ah, the secret weapons of the French! I dared to go back down to the village, which seemed as deserted as ever, to fill my two bottles, before going back up to my hiding place."

Alps - The Germans progress towards Chamonix, while the Italians advance (at last) into the Tarentaise. In spite of the losses, they encircle and bypassed the works that defend the access to Bourg-Saint-Maurice (the fort of the Ruined Redoubt, the batteries of Vulmix, Courbaton and Leuchelet). General Olry organizes a methodical retreat, taking advantage of all the natural obstacles to delay or block the enemy, while keeping control of the north-south axes in order to attempt, as a last resort, to withdraw some of his men to the ports of Provence.
July 16th, 1940

North Sea
- Off the coast of Scotland, in thick fog, the British light cruiser HMS Glasgow accidentally rams the destroyer HMS Imogen. The latter catches fire and has to be abandoned. It soon sinks.
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June 17th, 1940

Lézignan-Corbières, 08:30
- Marcel Reine (aviator for the 321nd Transport Squadron) leads his attack section - the chief warrant officer and seven rather unfit goons - to the assault of the warehouse of the Quincaillerie Agricole Louis et Fils, in Lattes (ten kilometers south of Montpellier). Result: capture without a requisition order of 50 tin cans intended for the improvisation of night beacons.
15:00 - A motorcycle courier brings to Reine a document prepared by the office of the President of the Council, that fixes the order and the date of the departures of the members of the Government and other dignitaries of the Republic to NAF. The President and Madame Lebrun would be the first to take off, on the evening of the 19th, on the Dewoitine 338. The plane will have to take on board Marshal Franchet d'Espèrey, who, despite his state of health, cannot be left in the hands of the enemy. Transported on a stretcher, the marshal is accompanied by his daughter Jacqueline, his orderly, a doctor captain and two nurses.
Toulouse, 22:00 - A convoy of about ten cars, Renault Vivastella and Citroën, leaves the prefecture of Haute-Garonne, Renault Vivastella and Citroën 11 hp, bound for Montpellier. Escorted by motorcyclists of the gendarmerie, it takes the presidential couple, the chief of staff of the head of state's cabinet and the head of his military staff, as well as Vincent Auriol, the Minister of Finance, who is in charge of leading the installation of the government in Algiers, and the Minister of State Édouard Daladier, his famous leather coat on his arm, with their wives, and the secretaries general.
As soon as they leave the city, the vehicles can drive with their headlights on, since the Luftwaffe does not appear after dusk, except for massive bombing runs on the towns. The convoy arrives at the Hérault prefecture, where rooms had been prepared, at about 07:00.
July 17th, 1940

Gibraltar, 01:05
- Three SM.82 Marsupiale bombers take the anti-aircraft defense of the Rock by surprise and launch each 4.25 tons of bombs on the fully lighted port, as no air threat seemed to be feared. The damage is light, but the lesson learned is salutary for the Allies.
Small groups of two or three SM.82 attack four more times the Allied ports of the Western Mediterranean (Gibraltar twice, Mers-el-Kébir and Algiers). They also attack Alexandria (twice) and the Suez Canal. But these sites being obscured (except in the case of Mers-el-Kébir, attacked at dusk) and the number of aircraft engaged never exceeding four, the results are poor.
July 17th, 1940

Western Mediterranean
- During the night, the submarine Dandolo intercepts, west of Sardinia, on the parallel of the island of Asinara, one of the last Marseille-Alger convoys.
Sailing on the surface, he manages to get close to it at a good distance. Just before being forced to dive by the arrival of one of the escorts (an Elan-class aviso), he launches two torpedoes at the liner Cap Tourane (8,009 GRT). One of them hits its target in the bow. Having escaped the escort's counter-attack, the Dandolo, back at its base, claims a victory. In fact, the liner survived; the next day it is towed to Ajaccio. [1]

[1] As the port was not equipped for major repairs, it would take time to put Cap Tourane in a position to face a crossing from Ajaccio to Algiers made safer by the conquest of Sardinia. It was only on November 9th, 1940 that it left Corsica, towed by the ocean-going tug Goliath (rescued from Toulon).
July 17th, 1940

Tyrrhenian Sea, 15:58 GMT
- While on patrol along the coasts of Lazio and in particular in front of Civitavecchia, the submarine Pégase (L.V. Mottez) sees a convoy composed of the small oil tanker Abruzzi (900 GRT) and the steamers Egle (1,143 GRT) and Sivigliano (1,270 GRT), escorted by two units of the 2nd Torpedo Boat Division, the Generale Carlo Montanari and Generale Antonio Cascino. The slow speed of the convoy (9 knots) allows the submarine, which cannot risk surfacing before nightfall, to follow it long enough iwhile submerged to be sure of its course: it is heading towards Olbia, on the east coast of Sardinia.
At nightfall, the Pégase emerges and tries to catch up with the convoy. Its approach, however, is spotted by the Cascino and the L.V. Mottez has just enough time to launch two torpedoes on the tanker which closed the gap before diving. If the two "eels" miss their target, the attack of the Pégase is not without effect: the convoy is diverted momentarily to move away from the danger, which lengthens its journey towards Olbia.
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