Fantasque Time Line (France Fights On) - English Translation

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478
July 17th, 1940

Libya (Tripolitania)
- While in the center-north, the 88th DIA goes on the attack, followed by the 180th, the Italian left collapses completely. What remains of the Bologna is surrounded, the Savona tries to escape the same fate and the Sabratha units that have not been captured try to flee to the northeast. The 16th BLM continues to chase them, although more than half of the D1 and R-35 armored vehicles that lead the way are stopped because of mechanical failures - but they did their job.
 
479
July 17th, 1940

Southwestern France
- Rommel's 7. PzD takes Royan, at the mouth of the Gironde river. The last ships that try to leave Bordeaux do so at night, at their own risk, and with the satisfaction of knowing that in case of failure, their wrecks will participate in the blocking of the estuary...
However, many of the defenders of the Charente, including a large number of Petiet's cavalrymen, manage to reach Rochefort and Oléron and to embark, escaping captivity.
---
At the Bloch factory in Bordeaux-Mérignac, the prefecture of the Gironde sent some trucks and buses to transport spare parts, mechanics, engineers and technicians to Biarritz and the Bréguet factory. Only remain a few dynamiters and a small team of volunteer workers who are working around twenty or so unfinished MB-155s to prepare their first (and last) mission.
Alexis Treignac, a mechanic, says: "Before the evacuation, I spent my last day at Mérignac, welding and welding again. Indeed, the MB-155 carcasses had no landing gear, not yet mounted or removed as a spare part. My job was to give them a support strong enough to do a hundred kilometers in a trailer on the roads of the Landes. I welded a bar in the gear well, a second on which I threaded an MB-200 wheel - we had found a stock of them in the SNCASO factory, which had manufactured these bombers. I then welded a bolt to it so that it wouldn't slip off. It rolled, that was all we expected from this DIY... As we lacked vehicles to tow our twenty machines, a friend had the idea to attach the Blochs by the tail, two by two. So we drilled holes in the daggerboard, and tied it solidly with the cables that would normally have been used to operate the flight controls. It was a win-win situation: twice less to tow and moreover the whole thing had four wheels, which eliminated the problem of the rear wheels. If Marcel Bloch had seen that!"
So we left with ten vehicles each towing one of these strange hitches.
The people of Bordeaux, who had many worries, looked at our convoy with shocked eyes. We split up south of the city, some having to sow their decoys on the coast, others inland. We had made contact with some clubs who, with a heavy heart, had agreed to let the Luftwaffe use their airfields as target practice with our decoys and had hidden as best they could their Poux du Ciel and other tourist planes. My group drove its two MB-155 imitations to the Dax side and we set them up on a small plot of land, prominently displayed near more or less presentable wrecks of cars and trucks donated by the city. All that was left to do was to cover our wrecks, which was done the next day. In spite of the gravity of the situation, I could not help smiling in front of these turbaned carcasses, mounted on wheels much too big for them... ".
(Extract 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)
---
For the first time since July 6th, a formation of Heinkel 111s attack Toulouse by day. This time it was escorted by Bf 110s, which take off from Limoges. They inflict heavy losses on the Morane 406 of GC I/6 (4 MS-406 shot down for one Bf 110) and prevent them from reaching the bombers, but the Dewoitine 520 of GC II/7 claim 8 bombers and 5 escort fighters for the loss of only two D-520. The six Belgian CR.42 are in the fray again, but they lose two of theirs (plus two damaged and irreparable) for a Bf 110 shot down[1]. The Luftwaffe decides to interrupt again its raids against Toulouse until the deployment of its Bf 109s at Brive, which will be effective from July 20th.

[1] The surviving pilots will be evacuated to Morocco with the two last planes in flying condition.
 
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480 - The Belgians make their stand, Start of the Battle of Pont-Saint-Esprit
July 17th, 1940

Rhone Valley
- Position II on the Drôme River cracks under the pressure. The Germans cross the Drôme at Crest and continue southwards.
Montélimar is taken by a vanguard, despite some delaying tactics. Adolf Galland is rescued!
"I spent the next day, July 17th, watching what was happening on the road along the river below my observation post. At the end of the day, I had no trouble seeing the German columns approaching and I was back in Lyon the next morning. In the meantime, Balthazar had achieved three more victories and I had to catch up with him!"
---
In Berlin, the OKW is officially delighted with the progress of this offensive. However, the German HQ knows that the rapid progression of its troops has a downside: the heavy logistics of the German Heer can hardly go further than Montélimar! All the railroads leading to the Mediterranean are cut off for a long time at the 45th parallel. In Valence, the tunnel that crosses part of the city will be put back into service until 1941 - the 25th RTS had not been sacrificed in vain! Several viaducts on the Alps line are also destroyed, between Grenoble and Lus-la-Croix-Haute. All the supplies will have to go by road, of which only a few secondary roads (at best!) are still intact between the Isère and Drôme valleys.
But there is not only logistics to slow down the victorious race of the German troops.
---
After the fighting in Valence, the SS Totenkopf division is tasked to descend the right bank of the Rhone River in order to clear it, while the bulk of Kleist's troops rush to Orange and Avignon on the left bank. Arriving at the level of the Pierrelatte canal, the SS column splits in two, one half taking the N86 via Bourg-Saint-Andéol, the other half by the N93 and the N7 via Pierrelatte. Around 11:00, at the entrance to Saint-Just, the Pz II which opens the march, driving triumphantly towards Pont-Saint-Esprit in the middle of the Nationale 86, blows up on a mine.
"At the beginning of my training," says Antoine Mignolet, known as "Toine", a young Chasseur Ardennais from the small village of Bomal, "we were stationed near Liège. There was a young reserve officer, a strange guy. His parents were not from our village. I think they were Polish, but I don't remember, but he was nice. We called him Haroun, that was his first name.
I think it sounds rather Arab, but the Poles are Christians like us, right? Well, Haroun, he had studied at the university and everything, and that had given him ideas. He showed me how to make a kind of mine: he took some powder and then he made like a detonator with wires and scrap metal and when you stepped on it, it exploded. When we were told that the Schleus might be coming, I remembered Haroun's tricks and went to talk to my adjutant. I had noticed that with the heat it was so hot, it was easy to dig up the asphalt. So I said to my adjutant, let's just hide the traps right under the road, you know? We asked the local ladies for some old pots and pans...they opened their eyes wide! And then when the Schleus arrived with their tanks, boom!
"
A little cooled by this reception, the first column begins to advance much more cautiously. A company of volunteers went forward to probe the road to Pont-Saint-Esprit, on which obstacles are multiplying: carcasses of vehicles, fallen trees etc. All more or less booby-trapped. As the first elements are cautiously moving on the bridge that crosses the Ardèche, a little south of Saint-Just, it blows up.
The men are mowed down by the crossfire of several machine guns and two well camouflaged 47 mm cannons on the other side of the river attack the vehicles that followed. A similar scenario took place at the same time for the second column, at the entrance to Pont-Saint-Esprit.
Warned, Obergruppenführer Theodor Eicke comes to observe himself what is happening at the bridge of Saint-Just. "Das kann nicht, mein Führer, es sind Belgier!" [This is not possible, Chief! They are Belgians!] says a lieutenant who was looking at the south bank with binoculars.
"Sie sehen verwirt, Dummknopf! Es gibt keine belgische Armee mehr! Wissen Sie nicht, dass sie sich am 28. Mai übergegeben haben ? Geben Sie mir ihre Ferngläser über, schnell!" [You've got the wrong idea, you fool. There is no more Belgian army! Are you aware that they surrendered on May 28th? Hand me your binoculars, quick!] Eicke brings the binoculars to his eyes, and sees some men with green berets lurking on the other side of the river: "Scheiße! Es is nicht möglich! Ardennen Jäger, hier? Rommel hat es gesagt: "es sind keine Menschen sondern grüne Wölfe!" Aber sie werden sehen, was das SS kann!" [Shit! This is not possible! Ardennes Hunters, here? Rommel said that they are not men, but green wolves [1]. But they will see what the SS is capable of!].
There are two battalions of Chasseurs Ardennais here, commanded by General Lambert. For the rest of the rest of the afternoon, the SS probe the defenses of the Ardèche in several places, but their attempts to cross the river were all repulsed.

Alps - The French evacuate the Tarentaise and an Italian column arrives in Albertville. The flag with the coat of arms of the House of Savoy is raised under the lens of the
cameras of the reporters, invited in number. It is only in the afternoon that a company of the Wehrmacht arrives, which was once again badly hit at the level of Aiton by the French who were defending the access to the Maurienne.
Hitler, who was delighted with the complete encirclement of Switzerland (Chamonix had fallen that evening), is enraged: the Heer had been overtaken by the Regio Esercito! Ciano will have to take care of the Führer's wounded self-esteem by pointing out that the Italians, who have lost thousands of men in the Alps, have paid dearly for this success.

[1] On May 10th, Rommel's division was held up for over six hours by a company of only 60 Chasseurs Ardennais at Chabrehez, in the Belgian Ardennes.
 
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481
July 18th, 1940

Toulon
- Contemplating for a moment the crowd that clusters in the streets towards the port in the vain hope of finding a ship that would embark civilians for Corsica or North Africa, the lieutenant-colonel is drawn out of his sullen meditation by the sound of a plane passing a little too low. The crowd is agitated, on the verge of panic, fearing an attack as it happens more and more lately. Seeing from the balcony of his hotel a child suddenly separated from his parents and running desperately on the sidewalk, Paul de Villelume cannot help but say aloud: "But how could we have come to this?
How did we get here?
- I am afraid that we have our share of responsibility in this misfortune. Me in particular, of course. Even if I don't think I was the first, nor the most at fault.

The emotionally charged voice of General Georges drew Villelume out of his thoughts. The ordeals of the past few weeks and this astonishing Grand Déménagement have put everyone's nerves to the test. However, Villelume's admiration for General Georges hasn't changed. The latter resumed: "There is no way to make you reconsider your decision, Colonel?"
- Except a formal order from you, General.
- An order that I will not give you.
- So, it's decided. I have heard that some officers have been appointed to stay behind and take charge of the surrender of the last units that are trying to delay the enemy. I will arrange to take the place of one of these brave men. It doesn't matter who it may be, the Army will make better use of him than they would of me.
- Come on, Villelume. Your skills are certain and recognized by all. It is not the dispute between you and the Presidency of the Council that...
- If I may say so, General, it's more than a dispute. The... the new Minister of War is a sworn enemy and...
(He scratches his head at his scar from his car accident in June). "And I have made a mortal enemy of the President of the Council himself. I owe my place with you only to the confusion caused by the replacement of Generalissimo Weygand by Huntziger and to your insistence. Now, a profound reorganization of our forces is to be expected and you...
- You can say it. I'm in danger of being thrown away in the closet. Don't say no. I am afraid I'm not going to be given even one company! But my personal case doesn't matter.
- I am sure that you will continue to serve France... Goodbye, general.
- Goodbye, Villelume. I hope we'll have the opportunity to meet again once these terrible ordeals are over.
- Let's hope so, General... Let's hope so."

Nevertheless, as he walked through the door, Lieutenant-Colonel de Villelume has the impression that he has sealed his fate...
 
482
July 18th, 1940

Toulouse
- In accordance with the decision taken on July 3rd, a small group of French officers from the three arms, but where the majority were sailors, is charged, from the 5th, with studying the possible operation against the Dodecanese, called Cervantes. The preparatory work is progressing, although one suspects that it will be necessary to finish the work in Algiers.
However, one could not claim that the small team is seduced by the name of code proposed by César Campinchi. One of them (a colonel of the Army) is reluctant to this
reference to "a foreign writer". The other (a sailor), more seriously, reproaches him of being too explicit: "Cervantes may not be Rhodes, but it is the battle of Lepanto: the Christians against the Turks on the coast of Greece. We might as well say out loud what we are preparing! But how to go against the ministerial suggestion?"
Lieutenant-Commander Hervé Delestrade comes up with a miracle solution: "We must find, and I quote he minister: a name that sounds good, that is spelled the same in English and in French and I would add: one that begins with the letter C, to spare the minister's self-esteem!" On Thursday, he enters the meeting room with a smile on his face.
"The code name, I've got it!" A unanimous chorus immediately demands to be informed. "As you know, no one is perfect, I have a brother-in-law who is not a sailor. Having done X and Ponts, he serves in the Engineers and must leave shortly for Algiers, where we count on him to improve our roads and railroads. We had dinner together last night. As he speaks English very well, I told him, without further details, that we wanted to build up a stock of code names that could be heard in both French and English. He threw a few at me on the fly. I wrote them down, so they could be used again. Several of them began with C and I retained one of them. (Various movements in the audience.) Well, I'm getting there. It's not It's not historical, it's not literary, but we can't link it to any specific place. It is...Cordite!"
After a short discussion, there is general agreement. All that remains is to demonstrate to the Minister of the Navy how we have only developed his judicious suggestion. On July 20th, Operation Cervantes dies before it could live, replaced by Cordite.
 
483 - Battle of Olbia
July 18th, 1940

Tyrrhenian Sea
- On two occasions, July 5th and 11th, the 6th and 8th Divisions of destroyers (Mogador, Volta on the one hand, L'Indomptable, Le Malin on the other), grouped together at Bougie, led in turn a night raid along the eastern coast of Sardinia in order to intercept possible movements between Olbia and the ports of the peninsula.
The 6th DCT sets sail again (on the 17th, shortly after 1600 GMT) for such a raid. The information provided by the Pégase and relayed by the Admiralty transforms a mission of principle into a search for a certain prey. It makes it possible to evaluate at 0545 GMT, on the 18th, the arrival time in the Olbia area of the convoy seen the day before by the submarine.
05:30 GMT - Having forced the pace up to 32 knots, the Mogador (C.F. Maerten) and Volta (C.F. Jacquinet) are in a good position south of Olbia. But the convoy is delayed
delayed by the attack of the Pégase, the wait is prolonged for a good half hour.
06:04 GMT - As they finally see smoke on the horizon, the two destroyers are themselves discovered by the last Cant Z-501 of the 5th Coastal Reconnaissance Squadron, which is patrolling ahead of the convoy to provide additional ASW protection. The Z-501 immediately warns both the convoy and Olbia, where the 9th Torpedo Division is ready to sail, not counting the 4th Squadron's ASM.
Not suspecting that their backs are being shaken, the French rush to attack the convoy which had diverted to the north-west while emitting a smoke screen. They easily gain ground but the confrontation is delayed by the Italian seaplane, which attacks and misses but forces its opponents to maneuver. Then it is the turn of the Italian destroyers (3 x 102 mm and 4 x 450 mm torpedo tubes each), which do not shy away from an unequal combat (each of the two destroyers carried 8 x 138 mm and 10 x 550 mm tubes). The Montanari and Cascino make the best use of their smoke screen to launch two attacks, first from their port torpedoes and then from their starboard torpedoes. Nevertheless, while maneuvering to avoid the torpedoes, the Mogador manages to place almost simultaneously three 138 mm shells on the Montanari, which has to withdraw in a very bad state. The Mogador then engages the Cascino, already hit once by the Volta, in order to allow the latter to break free and attack the ships in the convoy. While the Mogador inflicts damage to the Cascino, the Volta begins by setting fire to the tanker Abruzzi.
But, while the loss of the convoy seems to be inevitable, the Italian reinforcements from Olbia appear on the rear of the French ships: first the four MAS and then the fast Spica-class torpedo boats, Cassiopea and Canopo, followed by the slower Fratelli Cairoli and Antonio Mosto. The situation is likely to be reversed to the advantage of the Italians and the reinvigorated Montanari returns to the fight. The C.F. Maerten recalls the Volta, which joins him, but not without having finished the Abruzzi: swept away by the currents, its wreckage ends up being consumed on the coast.
During this time, the Mogador tries to finish off the Cascino and Montanari by launching its starboard torpedoes: if the former manages to avoid those intended for it, the Montanari receives one in the middle and breaks in two.
The second phase of the battle consisted mainly of the two destroyers avoiding the torpedoes from their numerous adversaries, who totalled 24 450 mm tubes, not to mention ten 102 mm guns (on the Cairoli and Mosto) and six 100 mm guns (on the Cassiopea and Canopo). At high speed, the two destroyers stay far enough away from their adversaries to thwart all attacks, even if one of the torpedoes of the MAS-503 misses the stern of the Volta. The latter succeeds in calming the ardor of the Italian torpedo boats for a moment by launching its own starboard torpedoes. On the other hand, the artillery fire is neither in vain or one-sided. If the Mogador ravages the bow and the bridge of the Cassiopea, itself, to which a shell from the Montanari has already cost its central 37 mm AA coupling, is hit three times without seriousness before a shell from the Canopo blocks its Y [1] turret.
As for the Volta, a shell from the Cairoli vaporizes one of its starboard lifeboats before a second one falls at the foot of the aft chimney, while the Mosto hits it at the forward crew station, fortunately deserted because of the fight. In return, the large destroyer torpedoes two of the Mosto's 102 mm guns and places a shell in the Cascino's engines, which stubbornly returns to contact even though it has only one gun left. When the French lookouts see the otherdestroyerss of the 2nd Division (Generale Achille Papa and Generale Antonio Chinotto) coming out of the Gulf of Olbia, C.F. Maerten prefers to order to break off the fight, not without a last shell from the Volta hitting the
Cairoli at the waterline. The two Frenchmen then leave their adversaries behind.
The conclusions of the affair are mixed. For the French, the damage inflicted on the enemy are not negligible: in addition to the destruction of the destroyer Montanari and the oil tanker Abruzzi, three other torpedo boats, the Cascino, Cassiopea and Mosto are more or less seriously damaged, while the damage inflicted on the Mogador and Volta is minor.
But the 6th DCT is very lucky. More concerned with saving the convoy than with the destruction of the two raiders, the Italians made the mistake to engage their reinforcements in small groups instead of concentrating their forces to trap their adversaries (which would have undoubtedly, it is true, cost the two freighters). However, the French committed a similar sin.
A force of two large destroyers was sufficient against the convoy's escort, but not against all the light forces of Sardinia. The units of the 8th DCT would have been better
employed to accompany those of the 6th, rather than to transport from Tunis to Alexandria the passengers of the Sydney Star, even if the gesture was much appreciated by the British...
In fact, things did not end there. On receiving the first report from the 6th DCT, an air attack on Olbia is ordered: it is entrusted to the Bloch MB-210s based in Corsica and the Laté-298 from Aspretto. In the middle of the day, while the latter attacked the military units, inflicting, at the cost of one of their own, new damages to the Fratelli Cairoli, the first ones seriously damage the two freighters and destroyed a good part of their cargo, either in their holds or on the docks.
When informed, Supermarina orders the immediate withdrawal first to Civitavecchia and then to La Spezia of all the MariSardegna torpedo boats that are fit to sail. Only the MAS are to remain in Olbia. Two destroyers of the 2nd Division (Papa and Chinotto) and three torpedo boats of the 9th (Cassiopea, Canopo and Antonio Mosto) leave that night.
(According to Francesco Folcini, Piccoli Combattenti - Le unità leggere della Regia Marina nella Seconda Guerra Mondiale, Rome, 1966)

[1] Pseudo-turret to be precise : like the "Le Hardi" class ships, the "Mogador" have turrets whose rear face is only closed by a metal mesh curtain.
 
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484
July 18th, 1940

Libya (Tripolitania)
- The fighting on the Tunisian-Libyan front is becoming more and more difficult for the Italian troops, who fight bravely, but in a situation of almost total isolation. Indeed, the blockade put in place by the Allied fleets and air forces strangles the Africa Settentrionale. The port of Tripoli is only home to wrecks.
The air reinforcements arrive only gradually: from July 1st to 31st, only 25 Fiat CR.42 and 20 SM.79s were added to the Italian forces in Libya; this was all that the state of
stocks of the Regia Aeronautica (still engaged in the Alps and on the French Riviera).
Arriving from Sicily, they often have to fight even before landing! Seven CR.42 and six Sparviero died the same day they arrived, in combat or by accident, landing on fields riddled with bomb craters. The rest melted quickly, during numerous and disorganized engagements.
On the coast, the Italians still resist, but in the center, their positions, flanked on their left, collapse. With the Savona, the Brescia and the remains of the Sabratha, these are three infantry divisions that try to escape the fate of the Bologna, which has been annihilated.
.........
"I will end up believing that I am scaring the Italians. We advance and all of a sudden they go away! On the one hand, it is a chance for some of our units, which lack heavy artillery and many key services. But we understood that on our right, things are heating up. Our tanks do not seem to have any worthy opponent. On our side, we advance with the help of some small FT-17s and the Italians have almost nothing to demolish these matchboxes with tracks!
In the background, enveloped by their left, the Italians are quite right not to let themselves be encircled. But not all of them run away. Some of them, who probably don't want to walk, surrender without making a fuss. Others hang on and get killed. I have nothing against these poor guys lost in the middle of the sand, but it's either them or me
." (Klaus Müller, Letters to my Enemy Brother, op. cit.)
.........
In the south, Bir-el-Ghnem is stormed by the 16th BLM and the first units of the 3rd DM.
The Black Shirts of the 1st CC.NN. (XXIII Marzo) who were able to get there offer a good resistance, but are dispersed after violent fights. From this city there are three road axes, one leading to the north, leads to the back of the Italian defenders of the coast; another leads southwards into the mountains of the Djebel Nefoussa; the last one, to the north-east, heads towards Tripoli.
 
485
July 18th, 1940

Rhone Valley (Battle of Pont-Saint-Esprit)
- In the night, some inhabitants of the hamlet of Saint-Georges arrive at Lambert's headquarters out of breath. They realize that the Germans are taking advantage of an island in the middle of the Ardèche, where it joins the Rhône, to build a bridge. A company commanded by Captain Commander Massotte is quickly dispatched to the site, and discover that the Germans are slowed down by a group of villagers who are shooting at them with hunting rifles.. A man in his fifties speaks to Massotte: "What did you think, we were not going to let the Belgians defend the Ardèche all alone, with all due respect, it's our home! So we took our rifles, and we shot at them! I was in Ypres, these jokers are not going to scare me!"
The company sets up a defense, surprising the enemy, who has to interrupt its crossing, the improvised bridge is too exposed. However, there are now more than 200 Germans on the right bank, and it will take a serious counter-attack to dislodge them.
In the early morning, T-13 [1] light tanks arrive and start to fire at the German positions. The 75s also start to fire, aiming at the boat bridges built during the night by the Germans. As usual, the German counter-battery is slow to get going and is rather clumsy at first, which allows the Belgian artillery to destroy the bridges.
Our friend Toine, who is near Saint-Georges with Massotte, tells us what happens next: "It was then that their planes arrived. We did not have the honor of the famous Stukas, we had the right to some biplanes [Henschel 123s]. Well, I can tell you, they made a lot of noise with their sirens, but the important thing is not to let themselves be discouraged. Well, it's true, they hit two of our beautiful T-13s, but we got one of theirs too. Finally, when the planes left, the captain gave the order to go, we had to push back these Schleus.
We first shot them with the 47, which was not pretty since they were still in the open. But the Krauts were completely crazy and they didn't want to give up. So we had to had to charge at them, and then they ran off like rabbits. [2] That's when we saw that they had painted skulls on their helmets. Did they think they were at Carnival, those jokesters?"

Another German detachment makes its way up the Ardèche, towards Saint-Martin, in the hope of capturing the bridge. It is a bad idea. Indeed, Lambert had anticipated the attempt: a battery placed behind the panorama of Aiguèze, in an ideal position, has the pleasure of dispersing the German column.

Cote d'Azur - The Italian offensive progresses painfully, at a terrible cost. The work of Sainte-Agnès, which controls the massif of the same name, is finally taken - the Italians take advantage of the fact that that the interval troops of the Fortified Sector of the Maritime Alps had mostly been withdrawn and that the garrisons themselves were not fully manned. The Pusteria then takes over the Lupi di Toscana, bled dry, to threaten Gorbio, which facilitates the efforts of the Cacciatori delle Alpi in their progression towards Roquebrune and Cap Martin.
Further north, in the foothills of the Mercantour, the Italian front line divisions are too exhausted to make any significant progress and there are virtually no army reserves left to relieve them.

[1] The T-13 is a light tank that equipped the Chasseurs Ardennais and some Belgian infantry divisions. The CRI of the Chasseurs Ardennais had been very lucky in its evacuation, as all its equipment had been able to follow.
[2] The Totenkopf is mainly made up of former concentration camp supervisors, who have already distinguished themselves since May 10th with a limited efficiency in combat and a certain propensity to kill prisoners.
 
486
July 19th, 1940

Lézignan-Corbières, 07:15
- Two isolated Bf 110s fly over the field at an altitude of more than 4,500 meters. The flak, out of range, refrains from opening fire, especially since it is useless to attract unwanted attention.
08:30 - Summoned to the prefecture, Reine prepares his aircraft with the head of the military house of the Élysée. Notwithstanding his instructions, he will himself pilot the D-338 in charge of the presidential couple and the marshal, with sergeant Breuil as co-pilot. Vincent Auriol will take place in the Farman and Edouard Daladier in one of the two Amiot. The other Amiot will embark the luggage and the essential archives. The entourages will be distributed as well as possible.
The mechanics will finish the revisions at 18:00. The full tanks will be filled up from 21:00. and the engines will be kept warm at 22:00. The take-offs will begin at 22:30, with a minimum of two minutes between each aircraft.
19:00 - Sailors' dinner. No aperitif, no more than one glass of wine per person, no digestif, but two cups of coffee. Pipes, cigars and cigarettes ad libitum.
20:00 - Reine gives his instructions to the crews. Immediately after takeoff, wide turn while climbing and take heading 180. The two Amiot will fly together, while the D-338 and the Farman will fly alone. Nice weather forecast on the sea. Lack of oxygen for the passengers, cruising altitude to be fixed between 1 200 and 1 500 meters. As soon as received the signal from Algiers White House (AMB in Morse code, every ten seconds), re-established for the occasion [1], align with the angle for approach. Absolute radio silence, except for distress, until in direct view of the African coast.
21:30 - The ambulance and the car bringing Marshal Franchet d'Esperey and his entourage arrive. The stretcher of the glorious soldier is hoisted with great difficulty into the D-338, from which it was necessary to have several seats removed. His doctor and a nurse will travel with him.
22:10 - The engines of the four planes are started. The attack section, transformed into an honor section, lines up in front of the D-338; it still looks good.
22:15 - The prefect of Hérault greets Mr. and Mrs. Lebrun, who board the D-338. The head of state, in a black jacket and striped pants despite the heat, gives out hat waves and insists, at the foot of the ladder, to shake hands with Reine and Breuil. Edouard Daladier jokes. Vincent Auriol is silent.
22:35 - The wheels of the Dewoitine 338 take off the ground.
22:50 - Captain Bernard, at the controls of the Farman, takes heading 180 and flies over the coast between Carnon and Palavas-les-Flots. At his side, Midshipman Le Mouël, his radio navigator, points out the position on his chart: this will be the ultimate certainty of his navigation, now with chronometer and sextant, before he can realign himself as he approaches the Algerian coast - or Tunisian coast if the drift is stronger than the forecasts predict.

[1] It had been cut at night since the declaration of war in order not to help to orientate possible German (!), Italian - or even Spanish - bombers.
 
487
July 19th, 1940

Washington, D.C
- President Roosevelt signs the "Two Oceans Navy Act", which orders the construction of 1,325,000 tons of warships and 15,000 aircraft for the Navy. Including the existing ships, the fleet should include in the long-term 35 battleships, 20 aircraft carriers and 88 cruisers...
 
488
July 19th, 1940

Libya (Tripolitania)
- The 81st DIA, supported by the still functioning tanks of the 65th BCC, marches on Tripoli, where the news aggravates the anxiety of the population.
Further north-west, the 88th DIA, followed on its left by the 180th DIA, reaches the road leading from Bir-el-Ghnem to Zauia.
In the south, the 6th DLC and the 3rd RCA, solidly supported by the 3rd DM, move towards Jefren, in the foothills of the Jebel Nefoussa. These units are accompanied by what remains of the 61st BCC, a dozen self-propelled guns and half a dozen tanks: most of them have broken down, most of the 39 others are scattered on the road since the 14th. But it goes without saying that Major de Hauteclocque is in the lead machine gun vehicle.
 
489 - End of the Battle of Pont-Saint-Esprit
July 19th, 1940

Western France
- Hoth's panzers cross the Gironde and reach the Dordogne. They come up against the second line of French defense. The fighting is terrible in Blaye, Saint-André-de-Cubzac and Libourne. At the same time, the tanks of the XIV. AK (mot), after having encircled the rear of the VIIth Army, takes Périgueux. Their first elements approach the Dordogne, heading towards Bergerac.
The Luftwaffe intensifies its daylight raids against the Bordeaux area, as the Bf 109, redeployed to Angoulême, can now escort the bombers.
Bordeaux-Mérignac - "For the last three days, the GC II/8 has mainly been carrying out combat support missions on the Dordogne, in the region of Brive, Tulle and Sarlat. Seven planes have been seriously hit by the flak, always formidable : four were shot down and their pilots killed, three were damaged beyond repair. The Group took revenge on two Hs-123, a He 111 and a Bf 110. And the Hs 126 "snitches" also suffered from the activity of the Blochs. The commanders understood the importance of chasing these indiscreet aircraft out of the sky and the II/8 shot down three of them.
However, it was necessary to retreat again, this time towards Mont-de-Marsan, after having blown up the installations of the base.
(Extract 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)

Rhone Valley - The Germans, advancing on the left bank of the Rhône, arrive in Bollène. On the other side of the river, their progression is more difficult!

Battle of Pont-Saint-Esprit - During the whole day, the exchange of gunfire continues on both sides of the Ardèche. The Belgians have to bear several air attacks, including one on the battery of Aiguèze which puts a gun out of action. The Belgian DCA succeeds however in shooting down two more German planes. Taking advantage of one of these air attacks, the SS try to cross again. They are repulsed at the cost of serious losses, including three more T-13s, but the SS losses are much heavier.
In the evening, faced with the risk of being overrun on the left bank of the Rhone, where the Germans are approaching Orange, General Lambert receives the order to withdraw. The retreat begins during the night and continues up to the Gardon, where Spanish units have formed a new line of defense. Small platoons are left behind to
to multiply the obstacles in front of the panzers, which would slow them down considerably in the following days.
On Kleist's orders, the SS Totenkopf is withdrawn from the front lines and it is now the 20. ID mot. that leads the German progression on the right bank of the Rhone.
The Germans would not attack the Gardon line directly until they had taken Marseille.
Some historians attribute in part the absence of German attempts to break through on the right bank of the Rhone - and fact that Montpellier was able to hold out until August 6th - to the exorbitant price that the Chasseurs Ardennais made the SS pay in their stubborn defense of the Ardèche. Their two battalions held an entire SS division in check for three days.
 
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490
June 19th, 1940

Mediterranean ports
- The evacuation of French and Allied troops, equipment and technicians useful to the war effort, becomes more and more random and difficult. The number of Armée de l'Air fighters trying to cover the ports decreases every day.
Marseille and Toulon are more and more frequently attacked by the Luftwaffe and the Regia Aeronautica. If Toulon is mainly attacked at night, Marseille, within range of the Bf 109 based in Valence, is now bombed during the day. The day of the 19th was one of the darkest, with the loss of four freighters and the aviso Yser, destroyed in the port of Marseille. After this bombing, the Admiralty forbade warships (and soon liners and large cargo ships) to enter the ports during the day to load (most of the embarkations are now done at night). The operation of the port of Marseille is gradually interrupted. The evacuation will only be able to continue from Toulon and the ports of the Côte d'Azur
(Nice, Cannes, Juan-les-Pins... towards Corsica) and Languedoc (Sète, Collioure, Banyuls, Port-Vendres...towards North Africa).
However, the Luftwaffe does not have a specialized anti-ship unit like the one that the Xth FliegerKorps would become at the end of the year and the anti-ship capacities of the Regia Aeronautica, still lacking effective torpedo bombers and dive bombers, are very weak. Once at sea, the Allied ships are relatively safe from any air threats.
 
491
July 19th, 1940

Western Mediterranean, 18:00
- The Italian submarine Medusa attacks a Marseille-Alger convoy, escorted by two torpedo boats, L'Iphigénie and the Bombarde. The latter spots the submarine and chases it, but they spend their modest supply of 20 ASM grenades (10 each) without result.
At the beginning of the night, on the surface, the Medusa catches up with the convoy and torpedoes the tanker Beauce (the Beauce, which was trying to evacuate part of what was left in Toulon's reserves, joined the convoy in front of Marseille). In the light of the fire, the submarine is seen by L'Iphigénie, which was very close to its adversary and runs him over at 30 knots, opening fire with its 100 mm front gun. The Medusa dives under the nose of the small escort, but the latter tows underwater its ultimate ASW weapon: a Ginocchio torpedo (ironically, the device is of Italian origin; although withdrawn from service on the other escort vessels, it was kept on the small torpedo boats). When L'Iphigénie passes over the Medusa, which dives as quickly as possible, the weapon works as it is supposed to: the towing cable hooks the submarine and the brutal braking that follows makes the torpedo explode. Soon, debris rise to the surface, proclaiming the victory of L'Iphigénie.
The small torpedo boats (less than 900 tons at full load) have just shown twice in a few days that they are far from being as useless as some had claimed. But Lieutenant Commander Antras, who commands L'Iphigénie, is aware that he has benefited from a stroke of luck, the Medusa would remain the only submarine ever destroyed by a Ginocchio torpedo.
 
492
July 20th, 1940

Alger-Maison Blanche Airport, 03:40
- Governor General Le Beau and General Noguès come to welcome the high personalities who were exiled from Metropolitan France. The honors are given by a squadron of foot spahis, a company of riflemen, a company from Sidi-Bel-Abbès surrounding the flag of the 2nd REI with its guard and the main music of the Legion, fusiliers-marins and airmen.
04:30 - The mechanics of Maison-Blanche begin to overhaul the planes. Marcel Reine and his crew leave for the Aletti Hotel, already overcrowded, where they would sleep in
mail rooms.
22:00 - The aircraft of the "321st Wing", overhauled and fueled, take off due north for the trip back to Lézignan.
 
493
July 20th, 1940

Atlantic Ocean, off Cape Verde
- The German auxiliary cruiser Pinguin refuels submarine U-A. In spite of relatively calm waters, this first refuelling of a submarine at sea proves to be very problematic, in particular the transfer of torpedoes, to the point that the operation lasts five days.
 
494
July 20th, 1940

Western Mediterranean
- In accordance with its instructions, at the end of its patrol the Archimède reaches Algiers (instead of Toulon, which could not play an active role anymore).
L.V. Attané then discovers the background of its victory of July 6th. He can at least testify before a commission of inquiry that the Gasperi "was indeed gray".
 
495
July 20th, 1940

Tyrrhenian Sea
- The minelayers Durazzo and Pelagosa and the auxiliary minelayers Caralis and Mazara leave Olbia and, after laying defensive minefields on the Sardinian coast, take refuge in Civitavecchia.
 
496
July 20th, 1940

Rome
- The situation on the ground in Libya is worsening day by day and the army is asking for reinforcements from Italy. However, Admiral Campioni does not want to sacrifice his surface fleet in a losing battle against the combined French and English fleets. Supermarina will try to restore the balance of naval forces in the Mediterranean by using secret weapons.
The Chief of Staff of the Italian Navy, Admiral Cavagnari, orders the Commander of the 1st MAS Flotilla, Commander Mario Giorgini, to launch Operation GA: to penetrate
the Alexandria base with "human torpedoes" to disable the main ships of the Mediterranean Fleet. The men areenthusiastic:
"Our assault equipment and self-contained breathing apparatus were still relatively reliable. Most of them had suffered accelerated aging due to their low numbers and the recent intensive training. But we were all burning with excitement at the prospect to finally enter the war and to offer our people, our ideals, a concrete gesture and not just words. As a young ensign, I was very proud to have been chosen to take part in this first mission, even if this joy was tarnished by the announcement that I would be part of the reserve crew." (Francisco Marlieri, Memento Audere Semper - Luigi Durand de la Penne, history of a Gold Medal. Rome, 1965).
 
497
July 20th, 1940

Libya (Tripolitania)
- On the road to Tripoli, the D1 tanks of the 65th BCC overrun Azizia (pushed less hard than those of the 61st, they went slower, but suffered less breakdowns). The small town is taken in the afternoon by the men of the 81st DIA.
Seeing the encirclement of Tripoli progressing, the Italian command of Tripolitania withdraws to Misurata, 200 km further east, on the coast. Marshal Graziani and his staff,
as well as Admiral Brivonesi, move further away, to Benghazi.
In the south, the 16th BLM take Jefren and move towards Garian, in the north-east, still supported by the 3rd BM and elements of the 1st DBB, including remnants of the 61st BCC.
 
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