French veteran war vessels in Thames mark de Gaulle’s 1940 appeal

TWO French naval training ships that saw heroic service in the Second World War have arrived at Tower Bridge to mark the historic 1940 appeal by G�n�ral Charles de Gaulle for French forces to join his struggle against the German occupation

By Mike Brooke

TWO French naval training ships that saw heroic service in the Second World War have arrived at Tower Bridge to mark the historic 1940 appeal by G�n�ral Charles de Gaulle for French forces to join his struggle against the German occupation.

Le Mutin was used by British and French Special Operations between 1940 and 1944, and her sister ship L’Etoile was run by Free French forces for training.

They are in London with other French Navy vessels to celebrate de Gaulle’s broadcast on the BBC 70 years ago this week.

Both made a dash across the Channel from the port of Brest when France fell in 1940, sailing under British Admiralty’s orders, to avoid falling into German hands.


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The Mutin was later attacked by the Luftwaffe while in Portsmouth Harbour in 1941, but was saved by her captain who was seriously injured while tackling the blaze. She was also hit four times in German air raids, but each time the bombs failed to explode.

French vessels were used during the war on infiltration missions and on clandestine sorties to supply the Resistance with weapons.

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Some 70 years on, they have berthed at HMS President navy base at St Katharine’s-by-the-Tower to celebrate their little-known pages of the Allied cause of the Second World War.

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