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Today 75 and 100 years ago and daily World War Report:

Diary November 25, 1942

old He 111 bombers at Stalingrad airlift

Even old pre-war He 111 bombers, which were in use by flight schools at this time, are pressed in service to support the Stalingrad airlift.

WW2 War Diary for Wednesday, November 25, 1942:

Air War

Eastern Front: STALINGRAD AIRLIFT (November 25, 1942-February 2, 1943): Luftwaffe transport units (joined by bomber units, from November 30) attempt to fulfil Goering’s verbal promise to Hitler that encircled 6th Army can be entirely supplied by air. Total number of planes involved rises from 320 in November to 500 in early December and 850 in late December. Deliveries promised: 500 t. per day; actual daily average, 100 t. Losses: 489 aircraft (including 266 Ju-52 and 165 He 111 planes).

Diary November 25, 1917

exchange trade between the trenches

After the ceasefire offer of the Russian revolutionary government, lively exchange trade begins between the trenches.

World War One Diary for Saturday, November 25, 1917:

Eastern Front

Western Russia: Fraternization near Baranovichi. At Orsha railway junction anti-Bolshevik troops going for Moscow are stopped.

Home Fronts

Russia – Constituent Assembly elections (until November 27): Bolsheviks win only 25% of vote, ie 9.8 million of 36 million with 225 delegates to 420 Socialists (20.75 million votes). Last free elections till 1989.
Hungary: 100,000 workers march in Budapest for peace and Russian Revolution.

Western Front

Cambrai: German counter­-attacks at Bourlon, British 40th Division loss now 4,000 men since November 23, only 12 tanks in action.
Verdun: French take 800 PoWs in Samogneux sector, success near Hill 344 on November 27.

Africa

Mocambique: Lettow crosses river Rovuma at Ngomano into Portuguese East Africa 1 mile from Portuguese fort with 2,000 troops; 3,000 porters and 1 gun until November 26. His attack takes the fort, 700 Portuguese, 6 MGs, 30 horses with 6 days’ rations.

Vichy France l’ Armee de l’ Armistice

Strength and Organization of the l’ Armee de l’ Armistice of Vichy France

captured Vichy French soldiers

Soldiers of the Vichy French army captured by Americans during the Torch landings in Northwest Africa.

Armed Forces of Vichy France

The Franco-German Armistice of 22 June 1940 divided France into two parts. The northern and western area of the country was to be under the direct control of the German armed forces while central and southern France was unoccupied and was given a limited degree of autonomy, being known as Vichy France after the town which became its new ‘capital’.

Article IV of the Armistice allowed for a small French army to be kept in being in the unoccupied zone (l’ Armee de l’ Armistice) and for the military provision of the French Empire overseas. The function of these forces was to keep internal order and to defend French territories from any Allied assault while remaining, in theory at least, under the overall direction of the German armed forces.

Vichy forces in Syria, Madagascar and Dakar resisted fiercely Allied attempts to take them over, but the Vichy Army in North Africa hardly resisted the landings of Operation Torch . The defeat of the Axis forces in North Africa and the American ‘Torch’ landings ensured the demise of Vichy France, and the German High Command set Operation ‘Anton’ into action. On 11 November 1942 German armoured columns advanced over the demarcation line and overran the unoccupied zone. Following the German occupation, the Armee de I’ Armistice was dissolved.


Vichy French Army

The exact strength of the Vichy Metropolitan Army was set as 3,768 officers, 15,072 NCOs and 75,360 men, all of whom were to be volunteers. In addition the size of the paramilitary Gendarmerie was fixed at 60,000 men plus an anti-aircraft force of 10,000 men. Despite the influx of trained soldiers from the colonial forces (reduced in size in accordance with the Armistice) there was a shortage of volunteers so that initially 50,000 men of the ‘class of 1939’ were retained until sufficient volunteers came forward to fulfill the quota. At the beginning of 1942 these conscripts were released, but still there was an insufficient number of men, a shortage that was to remain until the Army’s dissolution despite Vichy appeals to the Germans for a regular form of conscription.

The Army was divided into two groups each of four military divisions and comprised:

The Army was deprived of tanks and other armoured vehicles and was desperately short of motorised transport especially in the cavalry units which were supposed to be motorised.


Colonial Forces

The French territories in the Mediterranean consisted of the Algerian departement, the protectorates of Tunisia and Morocco and the mandates of Syria and Lebanon. The Armistice called for the demilitarisation of Tunisia – in compliance with Italian wishes – and a general reduction of French colonial troops.

Vichy France was permitted 55,000 men in Morocco, 50,000 in Algeria, the Army of the Levant in Syria and Lebanon being reduced from around 100,000 to just under 40,000 men. Later, 15,000 men more were allowed in Tunisia by the Italians.

The Vichy French Army of the Levant controlled the mandates of Syria and Lebanon and, although it did not mount offensive operations against the Allies, its very presence adjacent to the strategically vulnerable British oil and supply lines posed a constant threat.
Syria was invaded by a mixed Allied force on 8 June 1941, the Vichy troops putting up a dogged resistance to the Allied advance, a resistance tinged with bitter ferocity with Frenchman fighting Frenchman.

When the fighting in Syria finally ended on 11 July 1941 the Vichy forces had lost 6,000 men, 1,000 of whom had been killed. A total of 37,736 soldiers were taken prisoner, but when given the choice of being repatriated or joining General de Gaulle only 5,668 availed themselves of this opportunity, the remainder being transported to France.


Vichy French Air Force

Curtiss Hawks of the Vichy French Air Force

Curtiss Hawks of the Vichy French Air Force over Dakar, West Africa.

As a result of British aerial assaults on the French fleet at Mers-el-Kebir and the fear of further bombardment against the French homeland the Axis armistice commission permitted the French to retain part of their Air Force. Similarly the French were allowed to keep Air Force detachments in their overseas colonies which were coming under attack from the Allies and, in the case of Indo-China, from the Japanese.

In the unoccupied zone of France the Vichy Air Force consisted of:

  • 6 fighter groups;
  • 2 night-fighter escadrilles;
  • 6 bomber groups;
  • 2 ground-attack groups;
  • 3 reconnaissance groups.

A group was usually formed from two escadrilles which normally consist of 12 aircraft. The group would consist only of planes of one type, e.g. fighter or bomber, but could be combined to form groupements which could be of various types.
Following the German occupation of Vichy France all the remaining aircraft were seized and the French air units disbanded.

In Syria many of the aircraft stationed there had been sent back to France in 1940, leaving only a number of obsolete models. Alarmed by the growing threat of a British invasion, a fighter group was dispatched from Algeria and once the fighting started three groups were flown in from France and three more from North Africa. This brought the Vichy strength up to 289 aircraft organised into:
fighter groups, 4 bomber groups + 1 bomber escadrille (squadron), 1 reconnaissance group, 6 army co-operation groups, 2 transport groups, 1 flotille of naval aircraft, 4 escadrilles (squadrons) of naval aircraft.
This gave them the edge over the Allied air units until British reinforcements arrived towards the latter part of the campaign. French losses were 179 planes, most of which had been destroyed on the ground.

While the Vichy land forces did little to resist the Anglo-American forces during the ‘Torch’ landings, the Air Force was hotly engaged. A determined resistance was carried out until 11 November 1942 when a cease-fire was called following which most of the French planes went over to the Allies to join with the Free French.

In time of Operation Torch there were around 500 planes in Northwest Africa:
In Morocco there were two fighter, two reconnaissance and four bomber groups plus two flotilles of naval aircraft and two transport groups.
In Algeria the Vichy Air Force consisted of three fighter, one reconnaissance and three bomber groups with one flotille of naval aircraft.
In Tunisia a small presence was main­tained by one fighter, two bomber and one reconnaissance group with one unit of naval flying boats.


Vichy French Navy

Under the terms of the Franco-German Armistice the French Fleet was obliged to keep its ships under Axis control and be disarmed under German or Italian control. Little attempt to impose this clause of the Armistice was made, however, the Axis being content to leave the French ships in French hands so long as they were withdrawn from the British war effort.
Although the French Navy had no intention of allowing its ships to be used by the Axis, the British and Free French attacks against Mers-el-Kebir and Dakar, ensured that the Navy maintained a hostile attitude towards the Allied cause.

During Operation Torch the Vichy French naval forces in Northwest Africa were at Bizerta and Oran only with submarines and destroyers, there were a 6-inch cruiser, destroyers and an immobile battleship capable of firining its guns at Casablanca, together with a battleship and three cruisers at Dakar.

The Vichy Navy came to an abrupt end when the Germans occupied the ‘free’ zone in 1942. Initially the German Army made no attempt to gain control of the fleet in Toulon, but on 27 November the port was taken over, to which the French replied by scuttling their ships – more than 70 vessels – which included 3 battleships, 7 cruisers, 32 destroyers and 16 submarines.