De Gaulle in London and the Formation of Free France, 1940–42

Part of the St Antony’s Series book series


In beginning any history of Anglo-American relations with the Free French, the first things to be considered are exactly what was Free France and from which circumstances did it emerge. On 10 May 1940 — which coincidentally was the day Churchill became Prime Minister — the Germans invaded Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and France. From the very start the war went badly for the Allies. Churchill, becoming alarmed at his own ignorance of events, decided to send Sir Edward Louis Spears MP, one of Churchill’s closest friends and former chief British liaison officer from World War I, to Paris as his personal representative with the French premier, Paul Reynaud. What Spears discovered in June 1940 gave him a profound shock. His main job was to try to convince the French government to continue resistance, but this proved impossible. Virtually from the time of his arrival in Paris, Spears looked desperately for a second Joan of Arc; someone who could, as he put it, ‘Awaken France out of her stupor, exorcise this awful spell, rekindle the sacred fire that once burnt so brightly in the hearts of all her sons’.1 When Reynaud resigned on 16 June — allowing Marshal Philippe Pétain to come to power and ask for an armistice — Spears set out to find someone who was willing to come to London and organise resistance there.


Prime Minister British Government Suez Canal French Territory Personal Representative 
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  1. 1.
    Edward Spears, Assignment to Catastrophe I (London, 1954), 254.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    René Cassin, Des hommes partis de rien (Paris, 1974) 77.Google Scholar
  3. 18.
    Entry, 18 June 1940, in John Colville, The Fringes of Power: Downing Street Diaries 1939–1955 (London, 1985) 164.Google Scholar
  4. 19.
    Entry, 18 February 1941, David Dilks (ed.), The Cadogan Diaries 1938–1945 (London, 1971) 355.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© G. E. Maguire 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Paris XII — Val de MarneFrance

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