Steven O’Connor, de Sorbonne Université, présentera sa communication “‘This French force must be an asset and not a liability’: the British approach to coalition warfare during the Second World War” le jeudi 27 février à 17h. Maison de la Recherche, 28 rue Serpente, Paris 6e, salle D421.
Abstract: How does an army integrate foreign soldiers, overcoming the differences of language, culture, training and equipment? Taking the Free French forces in the Libyan campaign of 1942 as a case study, this presentation will examine the problems resulting from Allied units serving under British command and how they were resolved. In particular, it will examine the work of the British army’s liaison mission to these Free French forces, named the ‘Spears Mission’ after its commander General Edward Spears, which played an important role in Free French success in 1942. The liaison officers of the Spears Mission represented Free French needs and problems to the British high command, while also having responsibility for ensuring that the Free French followed British procedures and orders. Managing Franco-British military relations was a difficult task and sometimes the Mission was the victim of both sides’ frustration. Yet, this presentation will show that despite setbacks, or perhaps because of them, interallied military cooperation gradually improved during the 1942 Libyan campaign, which saw the first sustained, large-scale deployment of Free French forces under British command.