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French West Africa in World War II
Part of World War II
DateJuly 10 – November 12, 1940
LocationFrench West Africa, French Equatorial Africa
Result • Vichy victory in French West Africa
• Allied victory in French Equatorial Africa
Belligerents
 United Kingdom
 Australia
 Free French Forces
 Netherlands
 Vichy France
Commanders and leaders
United Kingdom Andrew Cunningham
Free French Forces Charles De Gaulle
Vichy France Pierre-François Boisson
Vichy France Marcel Tetu


Two battles were fought in French West Africa during World War II: the Battle of Dakar (also known as Operation Menace) and the Battle of Gabon, both of which took place in 1940. The actions involved Allied forces attacking Vichy French forces in French overseas territories in West Africa.

Following the capture of Gabon, Free French forces controlled French Equatorial Africa, while French West Africa remained under Vichy control, until the Allied landings in North Africa (Operation Torch) in November 1942.

Course of the campaign[edit | edit source]

Anti-British sentiment in Africa had run high after the French battleship Richelieu had been hit in the port of Dakar, Senegal, in French West Africa on July 10, 1940.[1] In August, Free French General Charles de Gaulle suggested an overland campaign, landing at Conakry, French Guinea. He anticipated that popular support for the Free French movement would be built in a drive on Dakar. But de Gaulle's suggestion was overruled by British desires to move swiftly.

On 18 September, three French light cruisers, the Georges Leygues, the Gloire, and the Montcalm were intercepted by Allied ships en route to Libreville. The intercepting Allied ships included the heavy cruiser HMAS Australia. The three French light cruisers were forced to retreat.

Vichy resistance stiffened as a result of the attacks on the French ships. The Battle of Dakar (23 September to 25 September 1940) took place after Allied forces failed to persuade the Vichy French defenders of Dakar to allow them to peacefully enter the city. The Allied forces first tried to persuade the Vichy forces by means of propaganda. They then attempted to take Dakar by force of arms. Both attempts ended in defeat. Allied hopes of taking over French West Africa were put aside and strategic considerations shifted to French Equatorial Africa instead.

Outcome[edit | edit source]

Free French Forces consolidated their gains in French Equatorial Africa, and were able to assist in other campaigns, including that of North Africa. However, French West Africa did not capitulate or join the Allied cause until the November 1942 landings of Operation Torch.

References[edit | edit source]

Further reading[edit | edit source]

  • Smith, Colin (2009). England's Last War Against France: Fighting Vichy 1940–1942. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 9780297852186.
  • Tute, Warren (1990). The Reluctant Enemies: The story of the last war between Britain and France, 1940–1942. London: Collins. ISBN 0002153181.

External links[edit | edit source]


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