Thursday, 23 April 2009

The flame of French resistance

The flame of french resistance was a speech broadcasted in London courtesy of the BBC by the french General, Charles de Gaulle. De Gaulle mesmerising oratory later helped the junior general of 1940 to become the political leader who towered over his country's destiny.The German invasion of France, which began in May 1940, proved devastating. De Gaulle's 4th Armoured Division, was advancing bravely into battle near Laon on May 17, was decimated by Stukas and forced to withdraw. After countless brave and successful attack, he was summoned to Paris, where he saw the Prime Minister, Paul Reynaud.The Prime Minister Reynaud offered Charles de Gaulle post in the government, but he had also invited Marshal Philippe Pétain, the hero of Verdun, to join the cabinet as vice-president.However,Pétain led the faction of capitulards who wanted to come to terms with the Nazis. Due to this De Gaulle, had now fallen out with him. With the Germans becoming stronger and eventually taking Paris on June 10 1940. France needed a hero then ever before.Amid chaos and demoralisation, the government retreated along roads swarming with refugees all the way to Bordeaux. On June 16, Reynaud was outmanoeuvred at the council of ministers and resigned. De Gaulle, who had flown to England with the English Prime Minster Winston Churchill in London, flew back to Bordeaux that night and heard that Pétain would seek an armistice. He too was now in the wilderness and at risk of arrest for wanting to fight on. De Gaulle,went to see Reynaud, who in spite of his resignation, provided him with passports and money.Early next morning, June 17, De Gaulle fled France in a biplane with Churchill's representative, General Edward Spears.They landed at Heston aerodrome soon after midday, unaware that Marshal Pétain was announcing the armistice to the French nation at that moment.For the majority of his listeners, refugees and demoralised soldiers alike, this was what they desperately wanted to hear. Spears took De Gaulle to see Churchill in the garden at Downing Street there, in the afternoon sunshine, De Gaulle's throught of the idea of addressing his nation via the BBC.Churchill agreed without hesitation. De Gaulle set to work that evening to draft his speech. The speechs main objective was to persuade the French government in Bordeaux to refuse to hand over the French fleet to the Germans. Later that evening De Gaulle, starts addressing the French people over radio via the BBC, although the speech was short it was rich in the rhetoric of defiance, it also proves extraordinarily prophetic. It urged the French people to have hope and not give in and famously became titled "the flame of French resistance".It is probably one of the most famous speeches in the 20th century.The Speech is as follows :

June 18 1940

The leaders who, for many years past, have been at the head of the French armed forces have set up a government.

Alleging the defeat of our armies, this government has entered into negotiations with the enemy with a view to bringing about a cessation of hostilities.

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 of the Germans, far more than the fact that we were outnumbered, that forced 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 and irremediable? To those questions I answer - No!

Speaking in full knowledge of the facts, I ask you to believe me when I say that the cause of France is not lost. The very factors that brought about our defeat may one day lead us to victory.

For, remember this, France does not stand alone. She is not isolated. Behind her is a vast empire, and she can make common cause with the British empire, which commands the seas and is continuing the struggle. Like England, she can draw unreservedly on the immense industrial resources of the United States.

This war is not limited to our unfortunate country. The outcome of the struggle has not been decided by the battle of France. This is a world war. Mistakes have been made, there have been delays and untold suffering, but the fact remains that there still exists in the world everything we need to crush our enemies some day.

Today we are crushed by the sheer weight of mechanised force hurled against us, but we can still look to a future in which 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 are at present on British soil, or may be in the future, with or without their arms; I call on all engineers and skilled workmen from the armaments factories who are at present on British soil, or may be in the future, to get in touch with me.

Whatever happens, the flame of French resistance must not and shall not die.

Tomorrow I shall broadcast again from London.

June 19 1940

Frenchmen must now be fully aware that all ordinary forms of authority have disappeared.

Faced by the bewilderment of my countrymen, by the disintegration of a government in thrall to the enemy, by the fact that the institutions of my country are incapable, at the moment, of functioning, I, General de Gaulle, a French soldier and military leader, realise that I now speak for France. I n the name of France, I make the following solemn declaration: It is the bounden duty of all Frenchmen who still bear arms to continue the struggle. For them to lay down their arms, to evacuate any position of military importance, or agree to hand over any part of French territory, however small, to enemy control, would be a crime against our country. For the moment I refer particularly to French North Africa - to the integrity of French North Africa.

The Italian armistice is nothing but a clumsy trap. In the Africa of Clauzel, Bugeaud, Lyautey, and Noguès, honour and duty strictly enjoin that the French should refuse to carry out the conditions imposed by the enemy.

The thought that the panic of Bordeaux could make itself felt across the sea is not to be borne.

Soldiers of France, wherever you may be, arise!

June 22 1940

The French government, after having asked for an armistice, now knows the conditions dictated by the enemy.

The result of these conditions would be the complete demobilisation of the French land, sea, and air forces, the surrender of our weapons and the total occupation of French territory. The French government would come under German and Italian tutelage.

It may therefore be said that this armistice would not only be a capitulation, but that it would also reduce the country to slavery. Now, a great many Frenchmen refuse to accept either capitulation or slavery, for reasons which are called: honour, common sense, and the higher interests of the country.

I say honour, for France has undertaken not to lay down arms save in agreement with her allies. As long as the allies continue the war, her government has no right to surrender to the enemy. The Polish, Norwegian, Belgian, Netherlands, and Luxemburg governments, though driven from their territories, have thus interpreted their duty. I say common sense, for it is absurd to consider the struggle as lost. True, we have suffered a major defeat. We lost the battle of France through a faulty military system, mistakes in the conduct of operations, and the defeatist spirit shown by the government during recent battles. But we still have a vast empire, our fleet is intact, and we possess large sums in gold. We still have the gigantic potentialities of American industry. The same war conditions which caused us to be beaten by 5,000 planes and 6,000 tanks can tomorrow bring victory by means of 20,000 tanks and 20,000 planes.

I say the higher interests of the country, for this is not a Franco-German war to be decided by a single battle. This is a world war. No one can foresee whether the neutral countries of today will not be at war tomorrow, or whether Germany's allies will always remain her allies. If the powers of freedom ultimately triumph over those of servitude, what will be the fate of a France which has submitted to the enemy?

Honour, common sense, and the interests of the country require that all free Frenchmen, wherever they be, should continue the fight as best they may.

It is therefore necessary to group the largest possible French force wherever this can be done. Everything which can be collected by way of French military elements and potentialities for armaments production must be organised wherever such elements exist.

I, General de Gaulle, am undertaking this national task here in England.

I call upon all French servicemen of the land, sea, and air forces; I call upon French engineers and skilled armaments workers who are on British soil, or have the means of getting here, to come and join me.

I call upon the leaders, together with all soldiers, sailors, and airmen of the French land, sea, and air forces, wherever they may now be, to get in touch with me.

I call upon all Frenchmen who want to remain free to listen to my voice and follow me.

Long live free France in honour and independence!

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