Operation Catapult part2 by AliceFromLake ()
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On 3 July 1940, before negotiations were formally terminated, British Fairey Swordfish planes escorted by Blackburn Skuas from Ark Royal dropped magnetic mines in the harbour exit. The force was intercepted by French Curtiss H-75 fighters and a Skua was shot down into the sea with the loss of its two crew, the only British fatalities in the action. French warships were ordered from Algiers and Toulon as reinforcements but did not reach Mers-El-Kebir in time to affect the outcome.
A short while later, at 5:54 p.m., Churchill ordered the British ships to open fire against the French ships and the British commenced from 17,500 yd (9.9 mi; 16.0 km). The third British salvo scored hits and caused a magazine explosion aboard Bretagne, which sank with 977 of her crew at 6:09 p.m. After thirty salvoes, the French ships stopped firing; the British force altered course to avoid return fire from the French coastal forts but Provence, Dunkerque and the destroyer Mogador were damaged and run aground by their crews.
As the British believed that the damage inflicted on Dunkerque and Provence was not serious, Swordfish aircraft from Ark Royal raided Mers-el-Kébir again on the morning of 8 July. A torpedo hit the patrol boat Terre-Neuve, which was full of depth charges and moored alongside Dunkerque. Terre-Neuve quickly sank and the depth charges went off, causing serious damage to Dunkerque. The last phase of Operation Catapult was another attack on 8 July, by aircraft from the carrier HMS Hermes against the battleship Richelieu at Dakar, which was seriously damaged. The French Air Force (Armée de l'Air) made reprisal raids on Gibraltar, including a half-hearted night attack on 5 July 1940, when many bombs landed in the sea and raids on 24 September by forty aircraft and the next day with more than a hundred bombers.
To be continued...