Williams, John. The Guns of Dakar: September 1940. London: Heinemann, 1976.
Foreword; acknowledgments; photos; maps; references; sources and bibliography; index.
As one of his earliest acts to rally Frenchmen to the cause of Free France, Charles de Gaulle in the summer of 1940 set off to Dakar in Vichy-administered Senegal at the westernmost tip of Africa with a pitiful flotilla of ships, the 1st "Brigade de legion francaise", and a few crated aircraft. Despite the dangerous weakness of his own defenses at home, Winston Churchill dispatched the 101st Royal Marine Brigade, a task force of Royal Navy warships, and squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm aboard HMS Ark Royal to add teeth to the expedition.
When Dakar failed to respond enthusiastically to the arrival of the expatriate general and his British guarantors, a three-day episode ensued during which Vichy shore batteries, warships, and aircraft resisted their assailants and finally, with heavy damage to the RN task force (including the crippling of the battleship Resolution by torpedo), drove the Allies into ignoble retreat.
Williams does a fine job with the story of the Dakar expedition and engagement, providing a complete, engrossing account. His "Aftermath" chapter speculates interestingly that the unfavorable repercussions were almost certainly less following the Allied failure than they would have been following an Anglo-French victory and its likely Axis response.
Arthur Marder's Operation Menace is one of the few other English-language accounts of Dakar. Marder's book takes a somewhat more scholarly, detached approach while Williams offers a slightly brighter, more personal perspective. Like Marder, Williams also includes information on "the Dudley North affair" associated with the expedition.
The Guns of Dakar is long out of print and rarely offered.
Thanks to Torpedo Junction for providing this review copy.
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Reviewed 25 April 1996
Copyright © 1996 by Bill Stone
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