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World War

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After France fell, the British government was certain that Germany's next move would be against the United Kingdom. These fears were confirmed when British intelligence intercepted coded German radio transmissions that made it clear that an invasion of Britain was imminent. Preparations in Britain had long been under way, and aircraft, guns, and ammunition were arriving by ship from the United States on a regular basis, despite the constant threat of attack by German submarines. The British would rely upon air and naval power as their primary defense, as they knew that they would quickly lose the war if German troops set foot on British soil in large numbers.

Operation Catapult

As Britain braced itself, one of its immediate goals was to prevent the French navy from falling into German hands. As a result, Operation Catapult was put into action on July 3, 1940. A British naval force based in Gibraltar was ordered to Mers-el-Kebir, Algeria, where much of the remaining French navy had fled. The British offered the French crews a choice: they could sail immediately for Britain and join in the fight against Germany, hand their ships over to the British, allow the British to move the ships somewhere safe in the West Indies, or scuttle their fleet. The French crews refused all four options, leaving the British little choice but to fire upon their allies, destroying the ships and killing over 1,200 French sailors. French ships at several other locations, however, were seized without incident.



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