Political map of Sub-Saharan Africa on 25 Sep 1940 (World War II in Africa: Debacle at Dakar), showing the following events: Free French Chad; Free French Cameroun; Free French Congo; Free French Ubangi-Shari; Italian invasion of Egypt; Battle of Dakar.

Debacle at Dakar

World War II in Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa 1940.0925

Debacle at Dakar

World War II, East African campaign, Madagascar campaign (25 September 1940)

Historical Map of Sub-Saharan Africa

The Fall of France led to the creation of two opposing French governments: the Vichy French, who agreed to collaborate with Germany, and the General Charles de Gaulle's Free French, who advocated continuing the war from the colonies. De Gaulle had little support until August 1940, when the French colonies of Equatorial Africa and Cameroun revolted against Vichy authority and joined his cause. This success encouraged the Allies to move on Dakar in the hope of also winning over French West Africa, but the attempt was a failure which only hardened Vichy resistance.

Main Events

Free French Chad

Félix Éboué, governor of Chad in French Equatorial Africa, declared his support for Free French leader Charles de Gaulle in Fort Lamy, Chad. Born in French Guiana, Éboué had become the first French colonial governor of black African ancestry when he had been appointed governor of Guadeloupe in 1936; he was transferred to Chad in 1939. His declaration was the first Allied success in winning over the French colonies in Africa from the German-collaborationist Vichy regime and in December 1940 Éboué would be promoted to Governor-general of all French Equatorial Africa - a post he would hold until his death in March 1944.

Free French Cameroun

On 6 August 1940, on orders of Free French leader Charles de Gaulle, Captain Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque departed from exile in London for Africa, secretly arriving in Tiko, British Cameroons, two weeks later. Here he met with representatives from Chad and on 26 August crossed the border into Douala, French Cameroun, with a handful of followers. After seizing buildings and inciting the local French colonials to his side, Leclerc overthrew the Vichy governor Richard Brunot on the 27th, declaring Cameroun part of the Free French Movement.

Free French Congo

On 20 August 1940 French Colonel Edgard de Larminat, based in Leopoldville, Belgian Congo, called on neighboring French Equatorial Africa (FEA) to revolt against the German-collaborationist Vichy government and join Charles de Gaulle's Free French Movement. His call was dismissed by Paul Louis Husson, both Vichy governor-general of FEA and governor of the Middle Congo, but the latter's authority was swiftly undermined when Chad and Cameroun fell into the Free French camp. On 28 August Husson was deposed in favor of Larminat and expelled from the colony.

Free French Ubangi-Shari

Surrounded by Free French and Allied colonies, Pierre de Saint-Mart, the Vichy French acting governor of Ubangi-Shari, declared for Charles de Gaulle.

Italian invasion of Egypt

Italian Army Marshal Rudolfo Graziani ordered his troops in Libya to cross into Egypt, with the invasion force spearheaded by the Italian 10th Army under General Mario Berti and focused on capturing the Suez Canal. At dusk on 16 September they took Sidi Barrani, 90km from the border, where their advance came to a halt due to supply problems.

Battle of Dakar

Encouraged by Free French leader Charles de Gaulle's conviction that he could persuade Vichy French West Africa to join the Allied cause, a British fleet - including two battleships and the aircraft carrier Ark Royal - arrived off Dakar, Senegal, on 23 September 1940. However, both peaceful and forceful attempts to pacify the Vichy garrison over the next two days were met with repeated resistance and the Allies were eventually compelled to withdraw, with one British battleship severely damaged. The incident dealt a serious blow to de Gaulle's reputation as it highlighted the limits of his support among the French.

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