(1881–1961), British naval officer who was Flag Officer North Atlantic at Gibraltar in July 1940 when Admiral Somerville'sForce H, which was based at Gibraltar but was not under North's operational command, was ordered by the Admiralty to bombard the French fleet at Mers-el-Kébir. After the operation North informed the Admiralty how repugnant the operation had been to all concerned. This bluntness earned him a severe reprimand and was almost certainly the true reason why he was subsequently dismissed when, in September 1940, he allowed six Vichy French warships to pass through the straits of Gibraltar unmolested. The Axis had allowed them to sail from Toulon to reinforce Vichy French forces in Gabon; and North, whose orders were to avoid incidents with the French Navy, assumed that if the Admiralty wanted them stopped it would have ordered Somerville to act.
From The Oxford Companion to World War II in Oxford Reference.
Subjects: Second World War.