Charles de Gaulle was born in Lille, France, on 22nd November, 1890. The son
of a headmaster of a Jesuit school, he was educated in Paris. He was a good
student and at the Military Academy St. Cyr, he graduated 13th in the class
Commissioned as a second lieutenant, the 6 feet 5 tall de Gaulle joined an
infantry regiment commanded by Colonel
Petain in 1913.
the First World War
de Gaulle was wounded twice in the first few months of the conflict.
Promoted to the rank of captain in February, 1915, de Gaulle fought at
where he was wounded again and on 2nd March, 1916 was captured by the
Over the next 32 months he was held in several prisoner of war camps and
made five unsuccessful attempts to escape.
Armistice de Gaulle was assigned to a Polish division being formed in
France where he served under
He fought against the
Civil War and won Poland's highest military decoration, Virtuti
Gaulle lectured at the French War College where he worked closely with
Petain. Over the next few years the two men demanding a small, mobile,
highly mechanized army of professionals.
Gaulle's military ideas appeared in his book, The
Army of the Future (1934). In the book he also criticized the
static theories of war that was exemplified by the
The book was unpopular with the politicians and the military who favoured
the idea of a mass army of conscripts during war. In 1936 de Gaulle was
punished for his views by having his name taken of the promotion list.
1938 de Gaulle published France and Her Army.
This book caused a disagreement with
Petain who accused de Gaulle of taking credit for work done by the staff
of the French War College.
On the outbreak of
the Second World War
de Gaulle took over command of the 5th Army's tank force in Alsace. He soon
became frustrated with the military hierarchy who had failed to grasp the
importance of using tanks in mass-attacks with air support.
broke through at Sedan he was given command of the recently formed 4th
Armoured Division. With 200 tanks, de Gaulle attacked the German panzers at
Montcornet on 17th May, 1940. Lacking air support, de Gaulle made little
impact on halting the German advance.
De Gaulle was more
successful at Caumont (28th May) when he became the only French commanding
officer to force the Germans to retreat during the German
On the 5th June,
1940, the French prime minister,
Daladier and appointed de Gaulle as his minister of war. De
Gaulle also visited
when he returned to France on 16th June he discovered the
Petain had ousted
as premier and was forming a government that would seek an armistice with
Germany. In danger of being arrested by the new French government, de Gaulle
returned to England. The following day he made a radio broadcast calling for
French people to continue fighting against the
Franklin D. Roosevelt in the USA recognized Vichy France
Churchill refused and backed de Gaulle as leader of the "Free French".
Petain responded by denouncing de Gaulle. On 4th July, 1940, a
court-martial in Toulouse sentenced him in absentia to four years in prison.
At a second court-martial on 2nd August, 1940, sentenced him to death.
De Gaulle made
attempts to unify the resistance movements in France. In March 1943
Dewavrin managed to unite eight major resistance movements under de
Gaulle's leadership. However, this good work was undermined when in June,
1943, both Delestraint and Moulin were both arrested by the
On 30th May 1943,
de Gaulle moved to Algeria. The following month the
French Committee of National Liberation (FCNL) was established with
de Gaulle and
Henri Giraud as co-presidents. De Gaulle had difficulty working with his
co-president and by July, 1943, had limited Giraud's power to command of the
Churchill were furious when de Gaulle's announced on 26 May, 1944, that
the FCNL will now be known as the Provisional Government of the French
Republic. Roosevelt and Churchill refused to recognize de Gaulle's action
and decided to exclude him from the planning of
from Britain and the USA, De Gaulle's Provisional Government was recognized
by Czechoslovakia, Poland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Yugoslavia and Norway. On
13th July, 1944, the governments of Britain and the USA also agreed that de
Gaulle could help administer the liberated portions of France.
De Gaulle reached
France from Algiers on 20th August 1944. De Gaulle and his 2nd Armoured
Division was allowed to join the
USA Army when
it entered Paris on 25th August. At a public speech later that day he
announced that the French Forces of the Interior
(FFI) would be integrated into the
and the militia would be dissolved. He also offered posts in his government
to leaders of the resistance. Those who took office included
De Gaulle was
upset by not being invited to the
but he was allowed to represent France as one of the four countries to sign
the final instrument of surrender with Germany. France was also given one of
the four occupation zones in Germany.
On 13th November,
1945, the first Constituent Assembly unanimously elected de Gaulle as head
of the French government. He held the post until resigning on 20th January,
1946. He then formed the right-wing group, the Rally
of the French People (RFP). After initial success it declined in
popularity and de Gaulle left it in 1953 and it was disbanded two years
retirement from politics de Gaulle wrote the first three volumes of his
memoirs. He returned to politics in 1958 when he was elected president
during the Algerian crisis. He granted independence to all 13 French African
colonies but the Algerian War continued until 1962.
De Gaulle decided
that France should have its own atom bomb and repeatedly blocked Britain's
attempts to join the
Community. In 1966 de Gaulle withdrew France from the integrated
military command of
riots against his government and negative results in a
referendum, de Gaulle resigned from office in April, 1969. In retirement he
completed his memoirs. Charles De Gaulle died on 9th November, 1970.
(1) General Charles de Gaulle, attempted to halt the
German invasion of France at Abbeville. He wrote about these events in his
book, The Call to Honour (1955)
By the evening (28th May, 1940) the objective was reached. Only Mont Caubert
still held out. There were a great many dead from both sides on the field.
Our tanks had been sorely tried. Barely a hundred were still in working
order. But all the same, an atmosphere of victory hovered over the
battlefield. Everyone held his head high. The wounded were smiling. The guns
fired gaily. Before us, in a pitched battle, the Germans had retired.
Alas! In the
course of the Battle of France, what other ground had been or would be won,
except this strip of fourteen kilometres deep? If the State had played its
part; if, while there was time, it had directed its military system towards
enterprise, not passivity; if our leaders had in consequence had at their
disposal the instruments for shock and manoeuvre which had been often
suggested to the politicians and to the High Command; then our arms would
have had their chance, and France would have found her soul again.
Boothby: Recollections of a Rebel (1978)
Within hours of the French capitulation, Louis Spears invited me to
lunch to meet what he called 'a French Brigadier whom I have just brought
over from Bordeaux. The Brigadier was de Gaulle; and the lunch party
consisted of Spears, his wife (Mary Borden), de Gaulle, Mme. de Gaulle, and
myself. Spears told us about their flight, how they had run out of petrol
and had to make a forced landing in the Channel Islands with two minutes to
spare. De Gaulle, who was going to make a broadcast that night, told us that
he thought of saying: "France has lost a battle, but not the war." We all
thought that this was very good. Later on Spears and de Gaulle quarrelled
bitterly when Spears was head of a British Mission to the Levant, and tried
- rightly - to ease the French out of Syria and the Lebanon. There is no
doubt that, in addition to being a brave soldier and, with Liddell Hart, the
most brilliant military historian of our time, Spears was a natural
What is equally
beyond doubt is that, if he had not pulled de Gaulle into that aeroplane at
Bordeaux, de Gaulle would never have been heard of. Spears, and Spears alone,
created de Gaulle; and in so doing made history. De Gaulle knew it, and
resented it. When Spears took him to see Churchill, the latter said: "Why
have you brought this lanky, gloomy Brigadier?" Spears replied: "Because no
one else would come."
(3) General Charles de Gaulle, BBC radio broadcast
(18th June, 1940)
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 the French resistance
must not and shall not die.
(4) General Charles
de Gaulle, wrote about
his book, The Call to Honour (1955)
On March 9th, at dawn, Mr. Churchill came and woke up to tell me, literally
dancing with joy, that the American Congress had passed the "Lend-Lease
Bill," which had been under discussion for several weeks. There was, indeed,
matter of comfort here for us, not only from the fact that the belligerents
were from now on assured of receiving from the United States the material
necessary for fighting, but also because America, by becoming, in
Roosevelt's phrase, "the arsenal of the democracies," was taking a gigantic
step toward war.
(5) General Charles
de Gaulle, The Call to Honour (1955)
Jean Moulin was dropped by parachute in France during the night of January
1st. He carried credentials from me appointing him as my delegate for the
non-occupied zone of Metropolitan France and instructing him to endure unity
of action among the elements of the resistance there. This would mean that
his authority would not, in principle, be disputed. It was therefore agreed
that it was he who would be the centre of our communications in France,
first with the South Zone, then, as soon as possible, with the North Zone.
(6) General Charles
de Gaulle, The Call to Honour (1955)
Churchill had made for himself a rule to do nothing important except in
agreement with Roosevelt. Though he felt, more than any other Englishman,
the awkwardness of Washington's methods, though he found it hard to bear the
conditions of subordination in which United States aid placed the British
Empire, and though he bitterly resented the tone of supremacy which the
President adopted towards him, Churchill had decided, once for all, to bow
to the imperious necessity of the American alliance.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
(16th December, 1941)
The German setback in Russia, the British successes in Libya, the moral and
military collapse of Italy, above all the the declarations of war exchanged
between Germany and the United States, must strongly affect the mind of
France and the French Empire. Now is the time to offer to Vichy and to
French North Africa a blessing or a cursing. A blessing will consist in a
promise by the United States and great Britain to re-establish France as a
Great Power with her territories undiminished.
Our relations with
General de Gaulle and the Free French movement will require to be reviewed.
Hitherto the United States have entered into no undertakings similar to
those comprised in my correspondence with him. Through no particular fault
of his own movement has created new antagonism in French minds. Any action
which the united states may now feel able to take in regard to him should
have the effect, inter alia, of redefining our obligations to him and
France so as to make these obligations more closely dependent upon the
eventual effort by him and the French nation to rehabilitate themselves.
James F. Byrnes,
as Secretary of State, attended the
Yalta Conference on
4th February, 1945.
In the fall of
1944 the Soviet Union and the Provisional Government of France had entered
into a treaty of friendship. It was immediately obvious at Yalta, however,
that the treaty and the friendly words exchanged over it by the diplomats
had not changed in any degree Marshal Stalin's opinion on the contribution
of France to the war. He thought France should play little part in the
control of Germany, and stated that Yugoslavia and Poland were more entitled
to consideration than France.
When Roosevelt and
Churchill proposed that France be allotted a zone of occupation, Stalin
agreed. But it was clear he agreed only because the French zone was to be
taken out of the territory allotted to the United States and the United
Kingdom. And he especially opposed giving France a representative on the
Allied Control Council for Germany. He undoubtedly concurred in the opinion
expressed to the President by Mr. Molotov that this should be done "only as
a kindness to France and not because she is entitled to it."
"I am in favor of
France being given a zone," Stalin declared, "but I cannot forget that in
this war France opened the gates to the enemy." He maintained it would
create difficulties to give France a zone of occupation and a representative
on the Allied Control Council and refuse the same treatment to others who
had fought more than France. He said France would soon demand that de Gaulle
attend the Big
strongly in favor of France's being represented on the Council. He said the
British public would not understand if questions affecting France and the
French zone were settled without her participation in the discussion. It did
not follow, as Stalin had suggested, that France would' demand de Gaulle's
participation in the conferences of the Big Three, he added. And, in his
best humor, Mr. Churchill said the conference was "a very exclusive club,
the entrance fee being at least five million soldiers or the equivalent."
speech in the
House of Commons
(31st July 1961)
Therefore, after long and earnest consideration, Her Majesty's Government
have come to the conclusion that it would be right for Britain to make a
formal application under Article 237 of the Treaty for negotiations with a
view to joining the Community if satisfactory arrangements can be made to
meet the special needs of the United Kingdom, of the Commonwealth and of the
European Free Trade Association.
as I earnestly hope, our offer to enter into negotiations with the European
Economic Community is accepted, we shall spare no efforts to reach a
satisfactory agreement. These negotiations must inevitably be of a detailed
and technical character, covering a very large number of the most delicate
and difficult matters. They may, therefore, be protracted and there can, of
course, be no guarantee of success. When any negotiations are brought to a
conclusion then it will be the duty of the Government to recommend to the
House what course we should pursue.
Charles De Gaulle, speech (4th January 1963)
The Treaty of Rome was concluded between six continental States - States
which are, economically speaking, one may say, of the same nature. Indeed,
whether it be a matter of their industrial or agricultural production, their
external exchanges, their habits or their commercial clientele, their living
or working conditions, there is between them much more resemblance than
difference. Moreover, they are adjacent, they inter-penetrate, they prolong
each other through their communications. It is therefore a fact to group
them and to link them in such a way that what they have to produce, to buy,
to sell, to consume - well, they do produce, buy, sell, consume, in
preference in their own ensemble. Doing that is conforming to realities.
Moreover, it must be added that from the point of view of their economic
development, their social progress, their technical capacity, they are, in
short, keeping pace. They are marching in similar fashion. It so happens,
too, that there is between them no kind of political grievance, no frontier
question, no rivalry in domination or power. On the contrary, they are
joined in solidarity, especially and primarily, from the aspect of the
consciousness they have, of defining together an important part of the
sources of our civilisation; and also as concerns their security, because
they are continentals and have before them one and the same menace from one
extremity to the other of their territories; finally, they are in solidarity
through the fact that not one among them is bound abroad by any particular
political or military accord.
Thus, it was psychologically and materially possible to make an economic
community of the Six, though not without difficulties. When the Treaty of
Rome was signed in 1957, it was after long discussions; and when it was
concluded, it was necessary in order to achieve something that we French put
in order our economic, financial, and monetary affairs and that was done in
Thereupon Great Britain posed her candidature to the Common Market. She did
it after having earlier refused to participate in the communities we are now
building, as well as after creating a free trade area with six other States,
and, finally, after having - I may well say it, the negotiations held at
such length on this subject will be recalled - after having put some
pressure on the Six to prevent a real beginning being made in the
application of the Common Market. If England asks in turn to enter, but on
her own conditions, this poses without doubt to each of the six States, and
poses to England, problems of a very great dimension.
England in effect is insular, she is maritime, she is linked through her
exchanges, her markets, her supply lines to the most diverse and often the
most distant countries; she pursues essentially industrial and commercial
activities, and only slight agricultural ones. She has in all her doings
very marked and very original habits and traditions.
Paul-Henri Spaak, The Continuing Battle: Memories of an European
new political event of extreme importance was in the making: General de
Gaulle had torpedoed our negotiations without having warned either his
partners or the British. He had acted with a lack of consideration
unexampled in the history of the EEC, showing utter contempt for his
negotiating partners, allies and opponents alike. He had brought to a halt
negotiations which he himself put in train in full agreement with his
partners, and had done so on the flimsiest of pretexts.
What had happened? There is every reason to believe that it was the attitude
adopted by Macmillan at his meeting with Kennedy in Bermuda which so upset
the President of the French Republic. Macmillan's crime was to have reached
agreement with the President of the United States on Britain's nuclear,
weaponry. He had in fact arranged for the purchase of Polaris missiles from
the United States. In General de Gaulle's eyes the cooperation with the
Americans was tantamount to treason against Europe's interests and justified
his refusal to allow Britain into the Common Market. The General's
resentment was all the greater because a few days before the Bermuda meeting
he had received Macmillan at Rambouillet. The British Prime Minister, he
claimed, had told him nothing of his nuclear plans. On the other hand, de
Gaulle gave Macmillan no warning that he was about to torpedo the
negotiations in Brussels. I think the full truth about these events still
remains to be told. The French and British versions which have been
circulating in the chancelleries differ, but what is certain is that France,
without consulting her partners, unilaterally withdrew from negotiations to
which she had earlier agreed and that she did so, moreover, after first
insisting that the Six must present a united front.
were faced with a complete volte-face. Stunned and angry, our first reaction
was to ignore what had been said in Paris and to continue the negotiation as
if nothing had happened. The British showed extraordinary sang-froid. Though,
deep down, they were greatly shocked, they gave no outward sign of this and
continued to present their arguments at the negotiating table with
Charles De Gaulle, speech (4th January 1963)
should like to speak particularly about the objection to integration. People
counter this by saying: "Why not merge the six states together into a single
supranational entity? That would be very simple and practical". But such an
entity is impossible to achieve in the absence in Europe today of a
federator who has the necessary power, reputation and ability. Thus one has
to fall back on a sort of hybrid arrangement under which the six states
agree to submit to the decisions of a qualified majority. At the same time,
although there are already six national Parliaments as well as the
European Parliament and, in addition the Consultative Assembly of the
Council of Europe ... it would be necessary to elect over and above this,
yet a further Parliament, described as European, which would lay down the
law to the six states.
These are ideas that might appeal to certain minds but I entirely fail to
see how they could be put into practice, even with six signatures at the
foot of a document. Can we imagine France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands,
Belgium, Luxembourg being prepared on a matter of importance to them in the
national or international sphere, to do something that appeared wrong to
them, merely because others had ordered them to do so? Would the peoples of
France, of Germany, of Italy, of the Netherlands, of Belgium or of
Luxembourg ever dream of submitting to laws passed by foreign
parliamentarians if such laws ran counter to their deepest convictions?
Clearly not. It is impossible nowadays for a foreign majority to impose
their will on reluctant nations. It is true, perhaps, that in this 'integrated'
Europe as it is called there might be no policy at all. This would simplify
a great many things. Indeed, once there was no France, no Europe; once there
was no policy - since one could not be imposed on each of the six states,
attempts to formulate a policy would cease. But then, perhaps, these peoples
would follow in the wake of some outsider who had a policy. There would,
perhaps, be a federator, but he would not be European. And Europe would not
be an integrated Europe but something vaster by far and, I repeat, with a
federator. Perhaps to some extent it is this that at times inspires the
utterances of certain advocates of European integration. If so, then it
would be better to say so.