Free France Naval Forces – Normandy landing

Free France Naval Forces

Allied armada battle order

In August 1943, less than a year before the Normandy landing, the French naval forces (Forces Navales Françaises Libres, FNFL) represented 7,500 sailors and 65 warships of various tonnages under the command of Vice-Admiral Muselier. These men and these materials joined the allied forces according to the will of General de Gaulle in order to continue the fight against Nazi Germany.

Part of this non-negligible force was then integrated by General Eisenhower into the immense allied armada in order to participate in Operation Neptune and support the amphibious assault on D-Day. In fact, 22 light warships (essentially Frigates) are selected to begin training alongside other naval forces allied to the British coast. The French, through Admiral André Lemonnier (French naval chief of staff), insisted that two cruisers also participate in order to increase the role played by Free France in the effort Of allied warfare: the request is finally accepted.

On 6 June 1944, the French fleet (under the responsibility of Rear Admiral Robert Jaujard) was divided among several task forces in front of the various landing beaches. It participates in both the escort of maritime convoys and the bombardment of the Normandy coasts and the fire support of the land forces. Light boats are deployed near the Channel Islands to cover Operation Neptune from D-Day until the end of the Battle of Normandy.

In total, the fleet of French free naval forces counts:
– two cruisers;
– four River class frigates;
– a Hunt class destroyer;
– four Flower class corvettes;
– seven submarine hunters;
– six MTB speedboats.

To these warships deployed alongside the other units of the Allied naval forces must be added old merchant ships and French warships used as breakwaters offshore in the days following the landing. Scrambled near the shore to reduce the effects of the current and thus facilitate the landing operations for supply, they form what is called by the Gooseberries Allies. Five Gooseberries were settled in Normandy at least in June 1944.

Two French warships in particular were scuttled: the battleship Courbet before Arromanches (Gooseberry 3) and the auxiliary patroller Forbin before Ouistreham (Gooseberry 5).

The combatant La Combattante illustrated himself on 14 June 1944 by landing General de Gaulle at Courseulles-sur-Mer, who came to address the French.


Detail of the participation of the French Free Naval Forces in Operation Neptune

  • Naval fire support, escort and demining operations

AconitCorvette classe Flower classUtah Beach
AudierneAnti-submarine vesselBetween Port-en-Bessin and Courseulles
AventureRiver class fregateOmaha Beach
CalaisAnti-submarine vesselBetween Port-en-Bessin and Courseulles
DécouverteRiver class fregateJuno Beach
DieletteAnti-submarine vesselBetween Port-en-Bessin and Courseulles
EscarmoucheRiver class fregateOmaha Beach
Estienne d'OrvesFlower class corvetteJuno Beach
Georges LeyguesLight cruiserOmaha Beach
MontcalmLight cruiserOmaha Beach
La CombattanteHunt class destroyerJuno Beach
PaimpolAnti-submarine vesselBetween Port-en-Bessin and Courseulles
RenonculeFlower class corvetteUtah Beach
RoselysFlower class corvetteUtah Beach
SurpriseRiver class fregateGold Beach


  • Blockships

CourbetBattleshipSunk off Sword Beach
ForbinAuxiliary PatrollerSunk off Arromanches