British and French Attitudes to De Gaulle in 1940

Discussion in '1940' started by Drew5233, Oct 13, 2010.

  1. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    I was rather surprised by Petain's view of De Gaulle in June 1940.

    The discussion took place on 6th June 1940 between Major-General Sir Edward Spears and Marshall Petain at a private meeting in Paris. Taken from Assignment to Catastrophe Vol.2-The Fall of France. I quote:

    There was a pause. I could see the Marshal's anger was not abating. He was looking down at the map, but not studying it. 'Then this appointment of De Gaulle is not going to help matters. Do you know him?' He asked.

    'No, but I thought he was highly spoken of; has he not done very well in command of the Armoured Division at Abbeville?'

    'He thinks he knows all about the mechanics of warfare. His vanity leads him to think the art of war has no secrets for him. He might have invented it. I know all about him. He was once on my staff and wrote a book, or at least I told him how to do so. I gave him the outline and corrected it, in fact annotated it in my own hand. When he published it he did not even acknowledge my contribution. Not only is he vain, he is ungrateful,' and he concluded, 'He has few friends in the Army. No wonder, for he gives the impression of looking down on everybody. They call him 'Le Connetable' at St. Cyr.' The word conjured up the picture of a Connetable de France I had once seen, long face resting on a ruff, long nose, receding chin barely concealed by a pointed beard, heavy drooping hooded eyelids under which a piercing glance seemed to escape diffused, like water held by a finger under a tap.

    I knew he wasn't liked very much by the Allies by the time D-Day came around. It seems Petain warned the British four years earlier of what he was like?

    Ps. I would highly recommend both Volumes of the above book for anyone wanting to get into the political side of what happened in 1940 France, it is quite detailed and does make for interesting reading.

    Pps. Not interested in 1944 views-4 years to late for me ;)
  2. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Hardly a surprise that De Gaulle was viewed as a vain upstart by many of his contemporaries, and others that met him. Far from a rare viewpoint.

    His pre-war publishing efforts and patronage from Reynaud weren't exactly calculated to endear him to the believers in Maginot. He might have been proved right in many ways, but he was hardly diplomatic or wildly popular at that point.
  3. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Hot air manufacturer

    The same could be said of other big names in the French Military of the time, who had ambitions and were not afraid of pulling connections. Look at Giraud, for instance. Also each political faction adopted its own military figurehead, so it's quite understandable they had some feelings to each other that are strange to our eyes used to seeing them as professional soldiers, not military politicians.
    von Poop likes this.
  4. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    military politicians.
    Nice description of De Gaulle, among others.
    French Command in the period strikes me as even more of a Viper's pit than many other Staffs. And that appears to be saying something.
  5. geoff501

    geoff501 Achtung Feind hört mit

  6. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

  7. urqh

    urqh Senior Member

    Seem to remember winnies 6 vols going from praise to disdain over the years..but he was always OUR man if nnot FDRs. The Giraud..Darlan...FDR Tunisia issues see him still defended by Winnie..Even if he did say summit along lines...we all have our cross to bear...ours is the cross of Lorraine..but in 40 he was all for him and speers aiding his virtual kidnap in 40 falling France. His call to arms speech was objected to by BBC winnie telling relevant minister..the beeb will do as they are told.
  8. James Daly

    James Daly Senior Member

    I can't recall exactly where, but I remember reading that there is a memorial in Normandy somewhere that describes de Gaulle landing to liberate France, with no mention of the Allies.

    Didn't WSC also describe DG as looking like 'a female llama who's been surprised in the bath'... genius! :D
  9. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    I always liked Spears's comment:
    "The hardest cross I have to bear is the Cross of Lorraine."

    You never seem to find many that had cause to deal with De Gaulle having an exactly easy time.
  10. urqh

    urqh Senior Member

    Well there you go I thought winnie said that not spiers...
  11. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Taken from the same book in the first post.

    I looked at The Times. It contained an article concerning General de Gaulle, whom I had not met yet. I was curious concerning him, so I kept the article. It ran:

    From the military point of view, the most interesting change made by R. Reynaud is the appointment of General de Gaulle as his assistant in the Ministry of National Defence. General de Gaulle was promoted to that rank only a few days ago, after distinguished service in command of an armoured unit.

    General de Gaulle came to notice of the French military world a few years ago by his books, especially Vers l' Armee de Metier, which are mainly concerned with the influence of the machine upon the art of war. He is of a type which has not a strong appeal-perhaps not a strong appeal enough-to British military students, though one British military writer resembles him in certain ways. Rather agressively 'Right Wing', intensely theorectical, an almost fanatical apostle of the mass employment of armoured vehicles, he is also clear-minded, lucid, and a man of action as well as a man of dreams and abstract ideas.

    Charles de Gaulle gave series of lectures at the Sorbonne, and had to face a number of heated interruptions. His ideas-but probably much more his manner of expressing them-appeared inconsistent with democracy to people who associated tanks with Nazism and Fascim. One man, however, at once perceived their true value and tried to translate them into realities through the medium of Parliment. That man was M. Paul Reynaud, who has now called General De Gaulle to his side.

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