Cruel Seas, Profiles

Spotlight: The Free French Naval Forces

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For those of you looking for something a little bit different, we’re taking a look at the Free French Naval Forces and how you can use them in Cruel Seas!

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The Free French Naval Forces

“I, General de Gaulle, currently in London, invite the officers and the French soldiers who are located in British territory or who might end up here, with their weapons or without their weapons, I invite the engineers and the specialised workers of the armament industries who are located in British territory or who might end up here, to put themselves in contact with me.” – Charles de Gaulle, in the Appeal of June 18th

Following the Battle of France, the remnants of the French government was obliged to establish a government in exile, based in London. From his new base, Charles de Gaulle broadcast a call to action on the BBC’s radio network, encouraging all French military personnel to join the fight against fascism once again.

Charles de Gaulle aboard one of the Free French Vospers.

Charles de Gaulle aboard one of the Free French Vospers.

Throughout the summer of 1940, a number of French surface vessels and submarines would pull into British and American harbours around the world, immediately incorporated into the nascent Free French Naval Forces under Admiral Emile Muselier, the only French flag officer to leave the Vichy regime.

The Free French found themselves with two obsolete battleships, a pair of destroyers and a number of submarines of various types. In addition, they would be equipped with two squadrons of motor torpedo boats and launches by the British government.

20th Motor Launch Flotilla

In the summer of 1941, the Free French Naval Forces were assigned four Fairmile B motor launches, christened ML123 Saint-Ronan, ML245 Saint-Guénolé, ML246 Saint-Yves, and ML247 Saint-Alain by Chaplain Olphe-Gaillard on August 15th.

Fairmile B ML303 serving with the Royal Navy on D-Day 1944.

Based along the south coast, these Fairmile motor launches were ideally suited to escort allied convoys as they headed out into the English channel. In April 1942, another four ships; ML182 Île-de-Sein, ML205 Ouessant, ML269 Béniguet and ML303 Molène. Now operating from Weymouth and Portland, the French flotilla carried out numerous raids on enemy shipping in the channel, while also continuing to run escort duties and patrol the south coast. 

23rd Motor Torpedo Boat Flotilla

In early 1942, the Free French Naval Forces created a flotilla of eight Vosper Motor Torpedo Boats, using personnel from the 20th Flotilla to increase their pool of experienced captains. Using the obsolete Arras-class gunboat Belfort as a mothership, the flotilla began training during 1942 and was deemed ready for offensive operations in January 1943.

An MTB in service with the Free French.

Housed in and around the seaside town of Torquay, the French sailors were welcomed with open arms by the locals, enjoying the nightlife and the charming company of the Wrens (WRNS – Women’s Royal Naval Service.)

From March 1943, the Vospers of 23rd Flotilla prowled the south coast, launching 451 sorties including 128 combat operations. Between them, the 8 ships of the flotilla accounted for 3 German cargo ships with a combined tonnage of 7,200 tonnes.

Many thanks to Walfroy “Jambon-Puree” Deleage for his help in researching this article!

The Free French Naval Forces in Cruel Seas

If you’ve got some Vospers handy (either from a Wargames Illustrated, or one of the fantastic sets available on our website), you’ve got all you need to recreate the Free French’s contribution to the Allied coastal forces.

The only cosmetic difference is the Free French naval ensign flying from the mast instead of the Royal Navy ensign.

If you’re looking to add a squadron of Free French ships to your existing Royal Navy flotilla, grab the fantastic Vosper flotilla set from our webstore today!

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Tom Mecredy
Tom spends most of his time buying books and painting miniatures. He enjoys putting animals on the bases of his miniatures and half-finishing side projects. Some say that he lives in a tower on top of some windswept northern hill with his wife and cow-patterned cat, Spaghetti.