Fighting the U-boats

Allied Navies

French Naval forces


The largest submarine in the World, the French Surcouf.

At the beginning of the war the French Navy consisted of 7 battleships, 1 aircraft carrier, 18 cruisers, 72 destroyers, 78 submarines and a number of corvettes and other smaller vessels.

After the Treaty with the leader of the Vichy government Marshall Petain in the town of Vichy the French Navy was divided into two sections, one was the Free French Navy; the vessels that had managed to escape to join the fight with the British and other allies, and the other vessels who were captured by the Germans or stayed in France.

Characteristic and strange was the incident with the battleship Bretagne (22,189 tons) which had stayed in France, was sunk with loss of life from the British battleships "Resolution" and "Valiant" at Mers el Kebir in Morocco, North Africa on 3 July so it would not fall into German hands.

Even the Free French navy was consisted by large number of surface and submarine vessels, they did not have impressive successes against U-boats. The French vessels participated in many operations in the Atlantic, the North Sea, the Mediterranean ... and contributed as every allied navy, to the defeat of U-boats.

Worth to be mentioned also, is that the Free French Navy during WWII had the largest submarine in the world. It was the Surcouf 2880/4300 tons build on 1929 and had a crew of 150! It had strange structure and impressive deck guns (2X203mm). It was probably sunk by mistake by US ships near Panama in February 1942 with all hands making it the worst submarine disaster of WWII.


French Naval successes

The Free French corvette Aconit (ex Br. Aconite, 925 tons) sank 2 U-boats on the the same day. They were U-444 and U-432 on 11 March, 1943 in the North Atlantic.

The French destroyer Leopard sank U-136 on 11 July, 1942 near Madeira.

The Free French corvette Lobelia (ex Br. Lobelia, 925 tons) sank U-609 on 7 February, 1943 in the North Atlantic.

The Free French destroyer Senegalais sank on 4 May, 1944 the U-371 near the Algerian coast.

French Naval losses

U-9 sank the French submarine Doris (525/765 tons) on 8 May, 1940 off the Dutch coast. She was operating under British command at the time.

U-654 sank the corvette Alysse (ex Br. Alyssum 925 tons, type "Flower") on 8 February, 1942 in the Atlantic.

U-124 sank the same corvette Mimosa (ex Br. Mimosa) on 9 June, 1942 in the North Atlantic.



Not Really What You'd Call a War

Hampson, Norman


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Books dealing with this subject include

LES ESCORTEURS DE LA FRANCE LIBRE. Michel BERTRAND, 1984.
Not Really What You'd Call a War. Hampson, Norman, 2001.
Les sous-marins de la France libre, 1939-1945. Pasquelot, Maurice, 1981.
UNE AFFAIRE D'HONNEUR. ROY Jules, 1983.


Allied Navies