by Nowfel Leulliot
Background: Following the fall of France, the British Royal Navy launched Operation Catapult to neutralize the French Navy and prevent its possible use by Germany. At 6:20 pm on 3 July 1940, the first wave of British aircraft, Swordfish bombers from No. 810, 818 & 820 squadrons and Skua escorts from No. 800 & 803 squadrons, took off from HMS Ark Royal to attack the battleship Strasbourg in Mers El Kebir. These were intercepted by a patrol of Curtiss Hawks from Fighter Group GC II/5. The scenario below depicts the second of too many occasions when French and British planes fought each other. After a first brush with French fighters, the Skuas face another French attack.
Map: Blue Sky
|Aircraft:||British (FAA)||=||3x Skuas,
6x Swordfish Mk.I
|Armée de l'Air||=||6x Curtiss Hawk H-75A3|
Set Up: Place the lead Swordfish in hex 2815 facing E, wings level, at speed 2.0, and altitude 9.0. Set up the rest of the formation behind. Place the Skuas in formation within 12 hexes of the leader, both facing E, wings level at altitude 9.0 and speed 3.0. A 3-plane French section enters the map on turn 1 from the W edge (facing E, wings level, altitude level 11.0, players choice of speed), followed by the rest of the Hawks on turn 3 (same conditions, altitude 12).
Game Length: 20 game turns.
This reflects the fact that French fighters were definitely not flown aggressively on this day. British pilot reports who often mention French planes not firing despite their advantageous position. This changed soon after one battleship was sunk and two other damaged with heavy losses.
Aftermath: Spotting the French fighters, the Skuas turn, carry out a frontal pass against the lower section and then engage in a turning dogfight. They disengage after the second section joins the fight. As the Swordfish show no hostile intentions (towards the fighters), they are left to continue and carry out an unsuccessful bomb attack against the Strasbourg. One Skua and one Hawk were seriously damaged but no planes were shot down (although one Skua which went into a spin to disengage after its guns jammed was claimed by the French).