England’s Last War Against France: Fighting Vichy 1940–1942 by Colin Smith - review by Andrew Roberts

Andrew Roberts

O Petain!

England’s Last War Against France: Fighting Vichy 1940–1942


Weidenfeld & Nicolson 490pp £25

It is a truism that the 1904 entente cordiale between Britain and France has been one of the most successful alliances in modern history, but, as this book eloquently proves, it entirely broke down for the vital two years between the French armistice with Germany in June 1940 and the German invasion of Vichy France in November 1942. In this excellent account of a woefully under-studied ‘war within a war’, Colin Smith has identified no fewer than fourteen occasions when Britons and Frenchmen fought each other during the Second World War.

The sinking of much of the French fleet at Oran in July 1940 is well known – and very well covered here – but other fighting in Dakar, Madagascar, Syria, Lebanon, North Africa and even Plymouth is less familiar, perhaps in part because it doesn’t fit into the

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