The Attack on Mers-el-Kébir/Battle of Mers-el-Kébir was an action that took part between the Royal Navy and the French Navy on July 3rd 1940 that was a result of Winston Churchill ordering that the French Fleet should either join the RN, with or without French crews, or be neutralised.
It is impossible for us, your comrades up to now, to allow your fine ships to fall into the power of the German enemy. We are determined to fight on until the end, and if we win, as we think we shall, we shall never forget that France was our Ally, that our interests are the same as hers, and that our common enemy is Germany. Should we conquer we solemnly declare that we shall restore the greatness and territory of France. For this purpose we must make sure that the best ships of the French Navy are not used against us by the common foe. In these circumstances, His Majesty's Government have instructed me to demand that the French Fleet now at Mers el Kebir and Oran shall act in accordance with one of the following alternatives;
(a) Sail with us and continue the fight until victory against the Germans.
(b) Sail with reduced crews under our control to a British port. The reduced crews would be repatriated at the earliest moment. If either of these courses is adopted by you we will restore your ships to France at the conclusion of the war or pay full compensation if they are damaged meanwhile.
(c) Alternatively if you feel bound to stipulate that your ships should not be used against the Germans unless they break the Armistice, then sail them with us with reduced crews to some French port in the West Indies — Martinique for instance — where they can be demilitarised to our satisfaction, or perhaps be entrusted to the United States and remain safe until the end of the war, the crews being repatriated.
If you refuse these fair offers, I must with profound regret, require you to sink your ships within 6 hours.
Finally, failing the above, I have the orders from His Majesty's Government to use whatever force may be necessary to prevent your ships from falling into German hands.
As a result of the battle, which the French fleet was not expecting, ~1300 french sailors died, a battleship sunk and 5 other ships damaged (2 British airmen also died).
Admiral James Somerville, RN (the British commander) said the action was:
“the biggest political blunder of modern times and will rouse the whole world against us…we all feel thoroughly ashamed…”
and is further quoted (from a letter written to his wife) as saying:
“In fact, I shouldn’t be surprised if I was relieved forthwith. I don’t mind because it was an absolutely bloody business…The truth is my heart wasn’t in it.”
Note: Quotes take from Military History Online.
Admiral Sommerville's quotes show that he personally felt like it was a huge mistake, that GB would regret, but what effect did the action have on Great Britain's international relations? and did it have a lasting impact on Churchill's relationship with Charles de Gaulle?