Sub-Saharan Africa 1943: French Committee of National Liberation
The Free French coexisted with the High Commission of France in Africa from November 1942 until June 1943, each contributing their own forces to the Allied war effort in Africa. In June, by which time the last Axis troops had been expelled from Tunisia, the two factions finally agreed to unite to form the French Committee of National Liberation. Although the committee was ostensibly an equal partnership, it soon came to be dominated by Charles de Gaulle and his Free French.
28 Nov 1942 Battle of Réunion▲
Free French Naval Forces destroyer Léopard with a contingent of 74 troops sailed from Mauritius to Saint-Denis, capital of Vichy French-controlled Réunion, on the night of 26 to 27 November 1942. The next day, the invasion force landed and, with the support of Communist resistance cells, seized control of the island.
1 Dec 1942–31 Jan 1943 Liberation of French Somaliland▲
In October 1942 Vichy France recalled French Somaliland Governor Pierre Nouailhetas under the suspicion that he was planning to declare for Free France, prompting two colonial battalions there to defect to the Allies. The British and Free French quickly took advantage of the situation, invading French Somaliland with 15,000 troops in December. By the 28th they had defeated most of the 5,000-strong Vichy garrison and installed a Free French governor in Djibouti, completing their conquest of rest of the colony the following month.
24 Dec 1942 Assassination of Darlan▲
The anti-Vichy monarchist Bonnier de La Chapelle and three friends decided to assassinate François Darlan, High Commissioner of France in Africa, who had continued to maintain repressive Vichy policies despite joining the Allies. On 24 December 1942 Bonnier surprised Darlan in his headquarters in the Palais d’Été, Algiers, shooting him in the face and chest with a ruby pistol and killing him. Bonnier was captured and executed by firing squad two days later (although he was posthumously exonerated in 1945 as acting in the interest of French liberation). After Darlan’s death, Henri Giraud became High Commissioner of France in Africa.
7 Jan 1943 Free French Madagascar▲
Britain formally ceded civil administration of Madagascar to the Free French, with General Paul Legentilhomme appointed to serve as commissioner. However, despite this, British troops would remain in occupation of the island until October 1946. During this period, Malagasy nationals were granted a high degree of political freedom, which naturally empowered the Malagasy nationalist movement.
14–24 Jan 1943 Casablanca Conference▲
United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Free French leader General Charles de Gaulle, and High Commissioner of France in Africa Henri Giraud met at the Anfa Hotel in Casablanca, French Morocco. The conference discussed strategy for the next phase of World War II and produced the ‘Casablanca Declaration’, demanding the unconditional surrender of the Axis powers.
7 May 1943 Fall of Tunis▲
Following a month of bitter fighting in Tunisia, the Allied forces broke through in early May 1943. At dawn on 7 May armor of the British Eighth Army rolled into Tunis; a few hours later the American First Army entered Bizerte. The remaining German and Italian forces in North Africa would surrender to the Allies over the following week.
3 Jun 1943 French Committee of National Liberation▲
French generals Charles de Gaulle—leader of the Free French—and Henri Giraud—High Commissioner of France in Africa—formed the French Committee of National Liberation (CFNL) in Algiers, French Algeria. The CFNL was a provisional government of Free France, uniting de Gaulle’s and Giraud’s Allied French factions in direct opposition to the German-backed Vichy regime in France. De Gaulle and Giraud served as co-presidents of the new government until 9 November, when de Gaulle assumed sole chairmanship after politically out-maneuvering Giraud.