Courtesy Reuters

Vichy or Free France?

BY the terms of the armistice with Germany and Italy which came into effect on June 25, 1940, the Pétain government laid down its arms without making any effort to exploit the still-intact resources of the great French Empire; and it broke the French alliance with Great Britain, embodied in the joint Anglo-French declaration of March 28 that neither nation would seek a separate peace.

When Marshal Pétain set up his government at Bordeaux on June 16, the British Government certainly entertained many misgivings. But it did not challenge the right of the new régime to represent the French people in international affairs. It merely recalled the British Ambassador and consuls, and tried to evacuate British nationals who would be subject to the dangers of the German occupation. A few weeks later, on July 10, the British Board of Trade, acting by virtue of the Trading with the Enemy Act, restricted trade with France. By that time the French Embassy in London had already been closed, following the naval battle of Mers-el-Kébir on July 3.

Meanwhile General Charles de Gaulle, who had been Under-Secretary of State in the Reynaud cabinet, had taken a decisive step. On June 18, the day after the announcement of Marshal Pétain's decision that France must lay down her arms, he denounced the mistaken idea of surrender and, speaking over the BBC, appealed to all Frenchmen to join him in continuing the war. As a matter of fact, many officers and soldiers had already made up their minds to fight along with the British, among them, for example, the commander of the submarine, Narval, at Malta, and all its crew.

Winston Churchill saw at once the immense political and moral value of General de Gaulle's move, and he promised British support to all Frenchmen who, either individually or collectively, decided to join de Gaulle and continue the struggle from British soil. Shortly afterwards, when it was obvious that no group of French politicians or statesmen was disposed or able

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