Continuing on from his study of the Oran operation of July 1940, when the French warships were destroyed at Mers-el-Kébir, the author investigates the allied expedition of September that year, with De Gaulle present, which unsuccessfully attempted to break the French at Dakar away from the Vichy Government. In addition, there is the story of the Admiral Sir Dudley Pound, Flag Officer Commanding at Gibraltar at the time, who was relieved from his post after allowing a French naval squadron to pass out of the Mediterranean and so jeopardise the Dakar operation. A pet operation of Prime Minister Churchill, it was undertaken against all advice, and it turned out to be a fiasco. In the author’s words, Menace exemplified, in its genesis, planning, and execution, all that can go wrong in warfare; an operation fouled up by unforeseen contingencies, the accidents of war, and human error, and against a background of undue political interference, inadequate planning, and half-baked co-operation between Allies.
OPERATION MENACE The Dakar Expedition and the Dudley North Affair
The Battle of Dakar, also known as Operation Menace, was an unsuccessful attempt in September 1940 by the Allies to capture the strategic port of Dakar in French West Africa. It was hoped that the success of the operation could overthrow the pro-German Vichy French administration in the colony, and be replaced by a pro-British Free French one under General Charles de Gaulle. Using Admiralty and Cabinet papers, as well as private sources of information, Marder weaves a skilled course through all the complex material to produce a masterly case study of how an operation is mounted and how it can go disastrously wrong. It is a classic, tragi-comic illustration of the fog of war.