In the closing days at Bordeux Admiral Darlan became very important. My contacts with him had been few and informal. I respected him for the work he had done in re-creating the French Navy, which after ten years of his professional control was more efficient than at any time since the French Revolution. When in December 1939 he had visited England we gave him an official dinner at Admiralty. In response to the toast, he began by remind us that his great-grandfather had been killed at the Battle of Trafalgar. I therefore thought of him as one of those good Frenchmen that hate England. Our Anglo-French naval discussions in January had also show how very jealous the Admiral was of his professional position in relation to whoever was the political Minister of Marine. This had become a positive obsession, and, I believe, played a definite part in his action.For the rest, Darlan had been present at most of the conferences which I have described, and as he end of the French resistance approached he had repeatedly assured me that whatever happened the French Fleet should never fall into German hands. Now at Bordeaux came the fateful moment in the career of this ambitious, self-seeking, and capable Admiral. His authority over the Fleet was for all practical purposes absolute. He had only to order the ships to British, American, or the French colonial harbours - some had already started - to be obeyed. In the morning of June 17, after the fall of M. Reynaud's Cabinet, he declared to General Georges that he was resolved to give the order. The next day Georges met him in the afternoon and asked him what had happened. Darlan replied that he had changed his mind. When asked why, he answered simply: "I am now Minister of Marine." This did not mean that he had changed his mind in order to become Minister of Marine, but that being Minister of Marine he had a different point of view.How vain are human calculations of self-interest! Rarely has there been a more convincing example. Admiral Darlan had but to sail in any one of his ships to any port outside France to become the master of all French interests beyond German control. He would not have come, like General de Gaulle, with only an unconquerable heart and a few kindred spirits. He would have carried with him outside the German reach the fourth Navy in the world, whose officers and men were personally devoted to him. Acting thus, Darlan would have become the chief of the French Resistance with a mighty weapon in his hand. British and American dockyards and arsenals would have been at the Liberator of France. The fame and power which he so ardently desired were in the grasp. Instead, he went forward through two years of worrying and ignominious office to a violent death, a dishonoured grave and a name to be execrated by the French Navy and the nation he had hitherto served so well.
W. S. C. Their finest hour, 201-202.