D-Day dress rehearsal: the battle for Madagascar

When Britain launched an invasion of this French island colony in 1942, the political and military stakes were high. Tim Benbow takes up the story

Winston Churchill (left) with Charles de Gaulle, c1944. The British prime minister encouraged Vichy’s colonies to rally to the Free French leader. (Getty Images)

This article was first published in the September 2012 issue of BBC History Magazine 

Three Royal Navy destroyers, guided in by a Special Operations Executive (SOE) yacht, led the landing force through the darkness, marking a channel to be cleared by minesweepers. By 2am on 5 May 1942 the assault ships had navigated the notoriously difficult passage and anchored outside the two target bays, just beyond the range of the enemy gun batteries. About an hour later, landing craft began to head for the beaches, preceded again by minesweepers. At 4.30am, well before sunrise, the assault began.

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