Did Any French Forces Serve In World War Two?

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by filthyphil, Nov 17, 2005.

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  1. Can anyone confirm this rumour?
  2. You need to dig around a bit to find a detailed answer, filthyphil.

    They certainly fought in Syria on behalf of the Vichy government against the Allies (including AIF and French Foreign Legion). The fighting was severe enough for an Australian officer to be awarded the VC (Roden Cutler VC).

    Even more obscure, because it doesn't fit what people want to believe, is that some French units stood and fought in 1940 to assist British (and some French) units to be evacuated at Dunkirk. Off the top of my head I can't quote which French units, where and when, but I have certainly read it.

    Confused? You should be because it is not mainstream party line on the French.
  3. The French ended up fighting each other in Syria- General Legintilhomme's Free French division included troops from West Africa, the Pacific Islands and France as well as Legionnaires. As for other French battles, Bir Hacheim in May/June 1942 springs to mind, Koenig's 1st Brigade francais libre did pretty alright there. The French Expeditionary Corps (to a large extent Algerians and Moroccans) fought very well in Italy in 1943/44.
  4. Details escape me, but I'm pretty certain there was Legion vs Legion action in North Africa during WWII too, and I seem to recall hearing about two regiments (once again Legionnaires) that went all "handbags at 20 paces" during the Algerian crisis in the 1950s.
  5. Bir Hachiem, Libya. Rommel used a Panzer-Grenadier unit (Panzergrenadier Regiment Afrika) to spearhead an attack on the French Foreign Legion. They didn't press home the attack too well and everyone wondered why until it was pointed out that the unit had been formed largely from Legionnaires recalled to Germany. Typically, Rommel didn't make an issue of it.
  6. daz

    daz LE

    And don't forget the french who fought on the otherside during WW2, 8)

    "This article will detail the history of all those formations within the German Wehrmacht or auxiliary services of French origin that existed during WWII (for the history of the French Axis Allied or Collaboration forces, see those individual sections).

    The French volunteer units and those organizations that included French volunteers that will be detailed here include the Légion des volontaires francais contre le bolchévisme (Franzosischer Infantry-Regiment 638), Bretonishe Waffenverband der SS, Phalange Africaine, Brigade Frankreich, Legion Speer, NSKK Motorgruppe Luftwaffe, Organization Todt, Division Charlemagne, and many other unique and colorful units."

    Web Page Name

    Web Page Name

    See there for more details

  7. Maybe I am missing something. Didn't one for two French forces have a bit of scrap in 1940 ? It was not only Brits involved in the defense of France before Dunkirk.
    • Like Like x 1
  8. OldSnowy

    OldSnowy LE Moderator Book Reviewer

    I am also pretty sure that the French had their own little war in the Far East. Before Pearl Habour, but after Dunkirk, they fought a war against Thailand. The French Navy did well, and sank most of the Thai boats, but on land they were beaten.... by the thais....

    Meanwhile, the Nips took over de facto rule of Indochina as the French grew weaker. This gave them great staging posts when they decided to eventally invade Malaya, Burma and Singapore. Thanks, Frogs :(
  9. Fang_Farrier

    Fang_Farrier LE Reviewer Book Reviewer

    I believe that also the French civilians were very helpful when the Germans were rounding up any of their Jewish countrymen.
  10. There were French elements landing on the beaches of Normandy and fighting as part of Brit Formations until the end of the war.

    I see plenty of French names on the Battle of Britain memorial as well
  11. Quoting from General Mark Clark's autobiography, he describes how the FEC broke through the GUSTAV Line in May of 1944.

    "Meantime, the French forces had crossed the Garigliano (River) and moved forward into the mountainous terrain lying south of the Liri River. It was not easy. As always, the German veterans reacted strongly and there was bitter fighting. The French surprised the enemy and quickly seized key terrain including Mounts Faito Cerasola and high ground near Castelforte. The 1st Motorized Division helped the 2nd Moroccan division take key Mount Girofano and then advanced rapidly north to S. Apollinare and S. Ambrogio. In spite of the stiffening enemy resistance, the 2nd Moroccan Division penetrated the Gustave Line in less than two day’s fighting.
    "The next 48 hours on the French front were decisive. The knife-wielding Goumiers swarmed over the hills, particularly at night, and General Juin’s entire force showed an aggressiveness hour after hour that the Germans could not withstand. Cerasola, San Giogrio, Mt. D’Oro, Ausonia and Esperia were seized in one of the most brilliant and daring advances of the war in Italy, and by May 16 the French Expeditionary Corps had thrust forward some ten miles on their left flank to Mount Revole, with the remainder of their front slanting back somewhat to keep contact with the British 8th Army.
    "For this performance, which was to be a key to the success of the entire drive on Rome, I shall always be a grateful admirer of General Juin and his magnificent FEC."
    (and a little further)
    "The 8th Army’s delay made Juin’s task more difficult, because he was moving forward so rapidly that his right flank---adjacent to the British---constantly was exposed to counter-attacks".

    from: French forces in Italy
  12. Ironic - the missus & myself were discussing that very issue this morning after having watched the "Basil Fawlty & the Germans" episode of Fawlty Towers last night on BBC Prime...

    Conclusion: the fall of Singapore in '42 was ultimately the fault of the French :D

  13. France -ww2 war dead Military 199k 400k civilians (including 90k Jews)

    Compared to
    British Empire C375k military dead
    USA 292 k Military dead

    In relation to their time in the war the French took high losses.
  14. OldSnowy

    OldSnowy LE Moderator Book Reviewer

    But of course most of the Jews were selected and transported by 'Fellow' Frenchmen. There aren't many examples of the Empire Forces killing each other in this way, or as described in French on french conflicts elsewhere, either.
  15. The French Navy also took part in a few naval battles in Algeria in 1940. Sorry, did I say took part in naval battles ? I meant to say was comprehensively written off by the Royal Navy in Algeria in 1940 !