May 18, 2015

A Panzer IV in Toulon, November 27, 1942

A Panzer IV at the harbor of Toulon
A Panzer IV at the harbor of Toulon during Operation “Lila”.

After the Allied invasion of North Africa, Operation “Torch”, the fate of the French fleet in Toulon was brought forward. On November 11, Toulon was encircled by German and Italian troops. At the time it was believed that the French navy officers would remain loyal to Pétain. As there were numerous signs that at least part of the navy might defect it was decided that on November 27 units from the 7th Panzer-Division and the 2nd SS-Panzer-Division would invade the harbor and capture the ships intact. The advanced elements of the two Divisions entered Toulon at 04:00 hrs, but the navy commanders were already prepared and ordered the scuttling of the fleet. Seventy seven vessels were destroyed by their own crews including three battleships; seven cruisers; fifteen destroyers; thirteen torpedo boats and twelve submarines.

The scuttling of the French fleet in Toulon
2. An aerial picture taken by the RAF on November 28,
one day after the scuttling of the French fleet in Toulon. 

Photos attribution
1. Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-027-1451-10/Vennemann, Wolfgang/CC BY-SA 3.0 de, via Wikimedia Commons
2. United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division, via Wikimedia Commons