Friday, August 06, 2010

De Gaulle's "Appeal" of 18 June 1940

A WW2 ‘wireless’ (radio)
French families had to clandestinely listen to the BBC
Few people actually heard De Gaulle's first London broadast
However, over time it has become a key moment of WW2

For additional information click on 'Comments below


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information (1)

In the midst of what was arguably the moment of France's most terrible tragedy, the then virtually unknown Charles de Gaulle boarded an aircraft and flew to London, where he was warmly welcomed by the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. He had not travelled to London for a mission on behalf of the French Government, but " ... to save the honour of France." On the afternoon of the following day - a little before 18.00 h on Tuesday 18 June 1940 - this little known 'temporary' French general and his 'aide de camp' Geoffroy de Courcel took a taxi with to the BBC studios. After a short walk into the studio De Gaulle made his legendary 'Appeal' to the French people:

"... Must we abandon all hope? Is our defeat final? No!"

Additional information (2)

Many people, particularly those living outside France, believe the text of De Gaulle's broadcast of 18 June 1940 is what was printed on 'Official Bulletin No 1' of the Free French Forces ("A Tous Les Français" / "To The French People"). This 'official bulletin' was printed in London and clandestinely distributed throughout France during the war and is still often found on many WW2 memorials throughout France. At the top of the leaflet is the famous quote of De Gaulle's:

"France has lost a battle! But France has not lost the war!"

However, this was not the speech broadcast by De Gaulle on 18 June. Furthermore, the speech he did make that evening did not even include this particular famous quotation. Additionally, De Gaulle's speech was unfortunately not recorded at the time, leading to some debate among historians about what was actually said at the time.

In fact there are two slightly different versions of one of the most famous speeches in French and world history - particularly the beginning. There is the version that was broadcast by the BBC. There is a second version, authenticated by De Gaulle, amended for posterity. De Gaulle's original handwritten note still exists and it clearly shows the crossing out of the first part of the speech and replaced by a slightly more 'neutral' beginning. Below are two variations of the beginning of De Gaulle’s broadcast of 18 June 1940, with an English translation by the writer.

(a) The 'BBC version':


"The French Government has requested from the enemy what the terms would be for the cessation of hostilities. It has stated that if these conditions were not honourable it would be their duty to continue."

(b) The 'official De Gaulle version':


"The leaders who, for many years past, have been at the head of the French armed Forces, have set up a Government. This Government, alleging the defeat of our armies, has entered into negotiations with the enemy with a view to a cessation of hostilities."

For General de Gaulle the actual wording of his broadcast, officially at least, was important. For posterity however, the important thing was, arguably, that De Gaulle broadcast to France from London at all. His message was basically that France was not defeated, she was not alone, the fight would go on and he, De Gaulle, would continue to broadcast to the French from a London that was still free.

The same day - Tuesday 18 June 1940 - was also when Winston Churchill made one of his most famous speeches: "This was their finest hour". Churchill and De Gaulle were two totally different characters. They had different backgrounds and different temperaments. Nevertheless, they had at least two things in common: to continue the struggle against Hitler and the belief that, in the end, theirs would be the ultimate victory.

Sunday, 08 August, 2010  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Sunday, 08 August, 2010  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information (3)

This is a translation by the writer of the 'official version' of De Gaulle's broadcast of 18 June 1940:

"The leaders who, for many years past, have been at the head of the French armed Forces, have set up a Government. This Government, alleging the defeat of our armies, has entered into negotiations with the enemy with a view to a cessation of hostilities.

Certainly, it is quite true that we were, and still are, overwhelmed by enemy mechanised forces, both on the ground and in the air. It was the tanks, the planes and the tactics, far more than the fact we were outnumbered, that forces our armies to retreat. It was the German tanks, planes and tactics that provided the element of surprise which brought our leaders to their present plight.

But has the last word been said? Must we abandon all hope? Is our defeat final? No!

Believe me, when I speak in speak to you in full knowledge of the facts, and I say to you that the cause of France is not lost. The same factors that brought about our defeat will one day lead us to victory.

Because France is not alone! She is not alone! She has a vast Empire behind her. She can make common cause with the British Empire which controls the seas and continues the fight. She can, like England, draw on the vast industrial resources of the United States.

This war is not limited to the territory of our unfortunate land! The outcome has not been decided by the Battle of France. This war is a World War. All the mistakes, all the delays and all the untold suffering, does not prevent the fact that that there still exists in the wider world everything we need to one day crush our enemies.

Struck down as we are today by the sheer weight of mechanised forces hurled against us, we can still look forward to the future where an even greater mechanised force will bring us victory. The destiny of the world is at stake.

I, General de Gaulle, now in London, call on all French officers and men who find themselves on British soil, or find themselves there in future, with or without their arms. I call on all engineers and skilled workmen from the armaments factories who find themselves on British soil, or may be in the future, to get in touch with me.

Whatever happens, the flame of the French Resistance must not and shall not die!

Tomorrow, like today, I shall speak on the radio from London."

Sunday, 08 August, 2010  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information (4)
This section are a few personal thoughts about De Gaulle's 'Appeal' of 18 June:

Most people did not realise it at the time, but the 'legend' of De Gaulle and the 'myth' of his Appeal had begun. It was to be a long and difficult road back to France for De Gaulle. It would be almost exactly four years to the day when he returned to mainland France.

Strictly speaking, De Gaulle's appeal on this day was for French military personnel and specialists in armament production to join him in London.That is, those with a direct interest and specialism to enable a military war effort to continue. In other words, it was not at this particular moment a call for an internal French Resistance, although latero on the 'myth' or 'legend' of De Gaulle's first broadcast subsequently assumed it did.

It is difficult for a country to commemorate a defeat. In 1960, twenty years after the broadcast from London Charles de Gaulle - by then the first President of the Fifth French Republic - inaugurated the Combatant French Memorial (Le Mémorial de la France combattante) at Mont-Valérien. At the centre of this edifice is a burning flame of remembrance at the foot of large stone cross of Lorraine. Above the flame are the following words of De Gaulle:

"Whatever happens, the flame of the French Resistance must not and shall not die!"

De Gaulle was an enigmatic and independent-minded character - some may even use the term 'awkward' or other such term. However, despite all his many faults and personal beliefs - or perhaps because of them - De Gaulle was surely the right man in the right place at the right time for France and the indeed the free world during WW2. On 25 August 1944 Charles de Gaulle walked down the Champs Elysées large crowds of cheering Parisians. At this point in time, according to the acclaimed ITV documentary series - 'The World At War' he "... embodied the very soul of France."

In the English-speaking world, Charles De Gaulle many people regard him as a somewhat aloof, awkward and ungrateful character. Much of this view dates back to the war years as well as the post-war years when he was President of France. Nevertheless, in 1993, after some years of campaigning by the Churchill family and others for a memorial commemorating the wartime years of De Gaulle in London a statue of him was unveiled near his wartime home at No 4 Carlton Gardens, London SW1.

Sunday, 08 August, 2010  
Blogger Cathie said...

It is most unusual for me to read this speech and de Gaulle's words in English. Of course in France June 18 is almost a national holiday, as everyone knows its meaning, even though few know what you say about the dates and timing of that speech.

Personally, I also associate that date with the last evacuation of the BEF out of St Malo.
"That evening (the men) boarded trawlers and similar boats and were the last troops to leave ST MALO and sailed to WEYMOUTH – sea flat calm"
says the diary of the 601 coy - of the Auxiliary Pioneer Corps.

These men had no idea of who de Gaulle was, nor did the French who first listened to him in dismay...

Sunday, 08 August, 2010  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

To tell the truth, I don’t think I have ever seen the full text of De Gaulle’s ‘Appeal’ in English either, only extracts from it. This is my own translation based upon De Gaulle’s final official version. Eboriclude lish translateions somewhere that There will be a rNo doubt there will bae someone else PrSo nal oand based on based sEven then, often the quotation is from the written ‘Bulletin No 1’ (particularly: “France has lost a battle! But France has not lost the war”). As mentioned earlier, so far as is known De Gaulle never actually spoke those words on 18 June 1940.

No doubt there will be other full English translations of De Gaulle’s ‘Appeal’ to be found – which may be the slightly different BBC version I refer to above. As with many of the principal characters of the WW2 years – De Gaulle, Churchill, Montgomery, Rommel etc – very often there some popularly believed ‘myths’ have grown up about them, some of which began in the war years and sometimes subsequently. So it can be difficult to write about the fine details of some of these principal characters or events when there are these popularly held ‘myths’.

Incidentally Ishould have made it clearer that No 4 Carlton Gardens, London – near where De Gaulle’s memorial statue is situated – was the Headquarters of the Free French Forces in London after July 1940. Initially, De Gaulle had living quarters at the Rubens Hotel (behind Buckingham Palace) for a few weeks.

De Gaulle subsequently had living quarters at the Connaught Hotel (about 10 – 15 minutes walk from Carlton Gardens) and also sometimes used an apartment at No 8 Seamore Grove (now Curzon Place) for discrete meetings during the war, such as with the Free French Resistance leader Jean Moulin. As one can see there are quite a few places associated with De Gaulle during his exile in London.

In Winston Churchill’s personal account of WW2 I think at one of their earliest meetings in France before De Gaulle came over to London, I seem to remember Churchill described De Gaulle as: “L’homme de destin” (“Man of Destiny”), if I have quoted this correctly. My personal opinion - such as it is - is that De Gaulle had this strong personal belief and of course he had a “certain idea of France”.

Wednesday, 11 August, 2010  
Blogger Peter G said...


You'll find the official English translation here.

But I must admit, de Gaulle is not my favourite character.

Wednesday, 11 August, 2010  

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