A re-enactment of the Battle of Trafalgar is not an opportunity for "French-bashing", says the Royal Navy.
Lord Admiral Nelson won the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805
Instead of the British taking on a French/Spanish fleet at next month's event to mark the battle's bicentenary a "red" force will take on a "blue".
Navy organisers fear visiting officials may be embarrassed at seeing their side beaten, The Sunday Times reported.
Portsmouth MP Mike Hancock said an event which did not acknowledge who the enemy was is "absolute twaddle".
The Lib Dem MP said: "If we are going to re-enact it we should do it properly. I am sure the French do not pull any punches when they celebrate Napoleon's victories.
"The French will be there - let's not rub it in but at least be accurate. I see no reason why we should not be out there proud as punch proclaiming it."
He said it was unlikely the decision was made by a serving naval officer and concluded it must have been "a faceless bureaucrat somewhere who thinks their next posting might be in Paris."
One event sponsor said: "Surely 200 years on we can afford to gloat a bit."
"Not even the French can try and get snooty about this."
Official literature for the event refers to "an early 19th-century sea battle" instead of the Battle of Trafalgar, The Sunday Times said.
Organisers have confirmed there will be no "sides" at the Trafalgar 200 event on 28 June, which is taking place off Southsea, near Portsmouth, it added.
The Ministry of Defence said: "This is not a historical re-enactment. It is a piece of theatre, and not supposed to be historically accurate."
The spectacle will involve tall ships in a mock battle alongside fireworks, lights and music.
Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson, whose fleet was based at Portsmouth, famously led his sailors to victory in 1805.
His 27 ships defeated the combined French and Spanish fleet of 33 ships, sinking or capturing 22 vessels off Spain.
Nelson died during the battle but his victory paved the way for a century of British naval supremacy.
A spokeswoman for the Royal Navy said of the event: "This is an illustration and theatre on water.
"Nelson is featured, but we are not billing it as Britain versus France. This will not be a French-bashing opportunity."