Today, Remembrance Day in Britain, Armistice Day in France, and Veterans Day in the US, has a special resonance here in the Maghreb. 70 years ago today, American and British forces were in the midst of a battle to free Vichy-held French North Africa. Operation Torch.
70 years ago today, General Patton's representative in Fedala, Morocco, negotiated a truce with French Resident General Nogues, which blossomed into a cessation of hostilities later throughout French North Africa. It was the beginning of getting France back into the Allied fold after the Vichy years.
Today in Tangier, Remembrance Day poppies were much in evidence at St. Andrew's Anglican church, where representatives of the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force, and British Army presided over a very dignified service in honor of the war dead, some of whom are buried in the church's graveyard.
Down the street, the French Consul General led the annual commemoration in front of Tangier's monument aux morts. His speech honored not only French but also the numerous Moroccan fallen.
70 years ago, when President Roosevelt came to Morocco in the wake of Operation Torch, he paid homage to the American and French soldiers buried in a battlefield cemetery on the Moroccan coast.
At TALIM, we are focusing on this important period in history, in part because of the role that the Tangier American Legation played in Operation Torch, but also because of the special place of Interzone Tangier in the strategic balance of World War II.
Seven decades on, we are taking rare documents and artifacts out of our file drawers and sharing them with visitors to our museum. And we welcome researchers into this period, when Tangier was a locus for wartime espionage and sabotage. Recently we welcomed Superintendent Rob Allen of the Gibraltar Defence Police, who is doggedly researching a mysterious explosion in Tangier harbor in 1942, which killed several of his predecessors in the Gibraltar Services Police.
Superintendent Allen may not fit the profile of our usual researcher – "'Four guys died and very little was known about it,' he told the Gibraltar Chronicle. 'I'm a detective, and I quite like an investigation.'" We wish him well, and hope that our research facilities will help open doors to this 70-year old mystery.
(Top image: the British Legion Poppy Appeal)