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Churchill’s Deadly Decision: Destroying the French Fleet

Comment from the International Churchill Society: While there are several rather inflammatory lines in this presentation, it does present Churchill’s dilemma in this heart-wrenching decision to attack his former French allies, certainly not one that he took lightly. At the end there is speculation that Admiral Darlan would have scuttled the French fleet before allowing it to get into the German hands (as he told Churchill he would do)−but experience with French governments during the previous two months did not encourage Churchill to accept everything on face value. The contributions Churchill Centre advisers Martin Gilbert and Warren Kimball are particularly useful to this discussion.


In the summer of 1940 Winston Churchill faced a terrible dilemma. France had just surrendered and only the English Channel stood between the Nazi’s and Britain. Germany was poised to seize the entire French fleet, one of the biggest in the world. With these ships in his hands, Hitler’s threat to invade Britain could become a reality. Churchill had to make a choice. He could either trust the promises of the new French government that they would never hand over their ships to Hitler. Or he could make sure that the ships never joined the German navy by destroying them himself.

Secrets of the Dead: Churchill’s Deadly Decision reveals the darkest side of Britain’s Finest Hour. Some call his decision a turning point in the war, others call it a terrible betrayal and a war crime. This is the story of what Churchill did next, and why; and how 1,300 French sailors died as a result in what the French still call ‘our Pearl Harbour’. In the words of French survivors, some of whom still regard Churchill as a war criminal, and one of the British sailors who opened fire on his former allies, this is the forgotten story of Churchill’s deadliest decision – to sink the French Fleet.

Produced by Furnace Limited for THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG, Channel 4, National Geographic Channel UK, ABC Australia, and ZDF.

Visit the PBS site here.

Narrated by: Liev Schreiber
Written and Directed by: Richard Bond
Executive Producer, Furnace: Phil Craig
Executive in Charge: William R. Grant
Executive Producer: Jared Lipworth

© 2010 WNET.ORG Properites L.L.C.

 

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