Charles de Gaulle

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Charles de Gaulle

Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle (22 November 1890 – 9 November 1970) was a French renegade officer in World War II and later politician, who is best known for leading a group of dissidents from the French Army who had fled France to England to conspire with the British against the French State as leader of the so-called Free French Forces during World War II, essentially puppets of the British. On 23 June 1940 the French Cabinet struck de Gaulle's name off the Army List for treason.[1]. The Communist newspaper Humanité denounced de Gaulle as a British agent.[2]

He later founded the French Fifth Republic in 1958 and served as its first President from 1959 to 1969.[3] In France, he is commonly referred to as Général de Gaulle or simply Le Général.



A veteran of World War I, de Gaulle came to the fore as a proponent of armoured warfare and advocate of military aviation, which he considered a means to break the stalemate of trench warfare. In the 1920s and 1930s, he dedicated two of his early books Au fil de l'épée and La France et son Armée to Mareschal Philippe Pétain[4] whom he would subsequently betray. During the opening year of World War II he reached the rank of Brigadier-General, leading one of the few successful armoured counter-attacks during the battles in May 1940 which led to the defeat of France. He subsequently became Under-Secretary of State for War in Paul Reynard's government.

The Exile

After the evacuation of British and French troops from Dunkirk to Britain and the evacuation from the defeat in Norway, Premier Paul Reynard demanded again to the British Government that the 16,000 French troops sent to Norway must be returned urgently to France as well as those evacuated from Dunkirk.[5] In any case it was felt nation-wide that "Britain had deserted France".[6] Reynard, having lost the confidence of his Cabinet, resigned.[7] De Gaulle secretly fled to England with the help of English General Sir Edward Spears, Bt., where he became a puppet-protegé[8] of Churchill's government, organizing his own illegal French National Committee (the so-called 'Free French') using a small number of equally rogue French officers and men who had declined to obey their government's orders to return to France (along with the overwhelming majority) following the armistice, France leaving the war, and the French government therefore recalling all those who had been evacuated. Louis Guitard wrote: "De Gaulle sought personal power rather than military feats, as did those grouped around him in London."[9] [10]

Despite the Franco-German Armistice signed on 22 June 1940, and France officially leaving the war, de Gaulle was now making BBC broadcasts to France urging the population to fight on! Writing in his book Journal de la France, Alfred Fabre-Luce, sneers at de Gaulle

telling us through the English microphone that he was the "leader of all the Free French" and inviting his countrymen to join in an international brigade, now in England's service.[11]

Moreover, British Consuls stationed in the French Empire called upon the French Colonial administrators urging them to break away from the Government of France, presently at Bordeaux, even offering them "financial advantages"! This of course was treason, and they universally refused and reported them to the government. The French Cabinet unanimously declared these advances as intolerable, and blamed de Gaulle. He was officially struck off the French Army List on 23 June 1940.[12]

The de Gaulle movement is not so popular as the English and American press insinuate. The Frenchmen I have interviewed, even those who still hope for an English victory, have little respect for 'General' de Gaulle. ~ Admiral William D. Leahy, USA Ambassador to France July 1941.[13]

De Gaulle was particularly attacked by Admiral Darlan for supporting and using France's Communists in the so-called resistance: "Before the Communists joined the active-anti-German resistance in France, the Gaullist party lacked real dynamic vigour and was merely engaging in wishful thinking. Now, thanks to the Communists, who constitute by far the most highly organised Party, and the best-armed Party, and counting among their members real experts in the art of underground propaganda, sabotage, guerilla warfare and outright murder, the anti-German movement has acquired the dynamic vigour which it lacked. Instead of appearing to be vulgar terrorists (which they are) they have now acquired, through their association with the 'Free French', a patriotic halo. But de Gaulle is not using them; it is they who are using de Gaulle."[14] De Gaulle declared at Algiers on 23 June, 1943:

Not only do I wish for, but insist upon the collusion with Communists.[15]

Returns to France

Following the Allied invasion of Normandy in 1944, de Gaulle became President of the Left-wing French Provisional Government set up by the new invaders. At the end of Philippe Pétain's political show trial, the Marshall was sentenced to death. Due to his advanced age, the court then asked that the sentence not be carried out. De Gaulle commuted the sentence to life imprisonment due to Pétain's age and his impressive military contributions in World War I. Fearing riots at the announcement of the sentence, due to Pétain's popularity, de Gaulle ordered that he be immediately transported by private aircraft to Fort du Portalet in the Pyrenees, where he remained from 15 August to 16 November 1945. The government then quietly transferred him to the Fort de Pierre-Levée citadel on the Île d'Yeu, a small island off the French Atlantic coast, where he died aged 95.[16]

Although de Gaulle retired from politics in 1946 due to political conflicts, he was returned to power with military support following the May 1958 crisis. De Gaulle led the writing of a new constitution founding the Fifth Republic, and was elected President of France.[17][18][19]


De Gaulle was considered by many, particularly the USA, as arrogant and unreliable, and there was some disquiet when, in 1949, his interpretation of Petain's government was a very different interpretation of Vichy from that which he had given it in 1940 or 1941.[20] Although he initially supported French rule over Algeria, he controversially decided to grant independence to that country, ending an expensive and unpopular war against insurgents (1954-1962), which France had actually won.

Alfred Fabre-Luce considered de Gaulle a traitor and in 1962 wrote the book The Trial of de Gaulle, based upon fact, and simulating a trial were one ever to take place.[21] The book was within a short time banned by the French state authorities, all copies gathered up and impounded. However the English-language edition, also translated that year, is still available.

De Gaulle also issued a new currency to control inflation, and industrial growth was promoted. He oversaw the development of France's atomic weapons, and promoted a pan-European foreign policy, seeking to diminish U.S.A. and British influences. He recognized Communist China on 27 January 1964, withdrew France from NATO in 1966, and blocked Britain's proposals to join the European Economic Community. During his term, de Gaulle also faced controversy and political opposition from Communists and socialists, and endured a spate of widespread political protests in May 1968. He retired the following year.

See also


  1. Benoist-Méchin, Jacques, Sixty Days That Shook The West, Putnams, New York, 1963, p.457.
  2. Werth, Alexander, France 1940-1955, London, 1957, p.190.
  3. Cinquième République. Assemblée Nationale Française (2008). Retrieved on 2008-11-02.
  4. Werth, 1957, p.20.
  5. Benoist-Méchin. 1963, pps: 193. 203-205, 215.
  6. Werth, 1942, p.359.
  7. Paul Reynard was sometime liberal Premier of France, forced to resign after his cabinet's majority vote to call for an Armistice in June 1940 following France's defeat. Reynard also favoured a United States of Europe, and later participated in drafting the constitution for the Fifth Republic under de Gaulle.
  8. Benoist-Méchin, p.457.
  9. Huddleston, Sisley,, France, The Tragic Years 1939-1947, Devin-Adair publishers, New York, 1955, p.xix.
  10. Fondation Charles de Gaulle. Retrieved on 2009-01-11.
  11. Werth, 1957, p.9.
  12. Benoist-Méchin, 1963, pps:412-3 & 456-7
  13. Huddleston, 1955, p.xix.
  14. Werth, 1957, p.90.
  15. Huddleston, 1955, p.xix.
  16. Fondation Charles de Gaulle. Retrieved on 2009-01-17.
  17. Fondation Charles de Gaulle. Retrieved on 2009-01-11.
  18. Fondation Charles de Gaulle. Retrieved on 2009-01-11.
  19. Fondation Charles de Gaulle. Retrieved on 2009-01-11.
  20. Werth, 1957, p.6.
  21. Not unlike The Trial of the Kaiser by Professor William A. Schabas, Oxford University Press, U.K., 2018.