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Exiles in the British Isles 1940–44

It is widely assumed that the French in the British Isles during the Second World War were fully fledged supporters of General de Gaulle, and that, across the channel at least, the French were a ‘nation of resisters’. This study reveals that most exiles were on British soil by chance rather than by design, and that many were not sure whether to stay. Overlooked by historians, who have concentrated on the ‘Free French’ of de Gaulle, these were the ‘Forgotten French’: refugees swept off the beaches of Dunkirk; servicemen held in camps after the Franco-German armistice; Vichy consular officials left to cater for their compatriots; and a sizeable colonist community based mainly in London. Drawing on little-known archival sources, this study examines the hopes and fears of those communities who were bitterly divided among themselves, some being attracted to Pétain as much as to de Gaulle.

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Communities, circumstances and choices

the Chartist demonstrations in Hyde Park. After the collapse of the Second Empire in 1870, he set up an ersatz court at Chislehurst in Kent, where he died in 1873, not so far from Petts Wood, the temporary home of General de Gaulle in autumn 1940. For many years afterwards, the Orpington Museum proudly displayed a copy of de Gaulle’s bill for coal deliveries.7 The upheavals that toppled kings and emperors also uprooted revolutionaries and artists. The political activists Godefroy Cavaignac, Louis Blanc, and Alexandre Ledru-Rollin all took shelter in London, as did

in The forgotten French
Open Access (free)
Servicemen

willingness to join General de Gaulle’.2 These men were, of course, the majority. When, on 18 June 1940, de Gaulle emitted his ‘call to honour’, the response was feeble, a fact acknowledged by even the most unreconstructed of the general’s hagiographers. It has been calculated that, in mid-August 1940, the numbers of Free French, ‘volunteers of the first hour’, in both Britain and across the world, numbered approximately 8,000.3 It is, though, these initial ralliés whose stories have been told over and over again, both by historians and by themselves.4 History remembers the

in The forgotten French
Open Access (free)
La colonie Française

the UFOM, the Ministry of Information gave the same response as it did to a telegram from a British diplomatic official in Tokyo where, presumably, Picarda’s agents had also been active: Union referred to is small organisation which, while not owing allegiance to General de Gaulle, is in favour of resistance. At present, our only criticism of it is that it pretends to be something more than it is.103 Internally, however, the Ministry was especially critical of Picarda, who was regarded as ‘an ambitious politician’.104 Suspicion also centred on some of the UFOM

in The forgotten French
The Vichy consulates

game’ strategy, the notion that Pétain hoodwinked the Germans by professing his genuine interest in collaboration while persuading Britain to ease its blockade on France and so allow General de Gaulle to carry the torch of resistance overseas. Contrary to what is sometimes thought, the double-game theory was not an invention unveiled at the marshal’s trial in 1945 by his defence lawyer Jacques Isorni; instead it originated in the minds of those Pétainists of the first hour who refused to believe that their hero was consorting with the Germans unless he possessed some

in The forgotten French
Open Access (free)
The break-up of a party confederation

present separate candidates was only taken one month before the elections, and so a number of candidates were only fielded at the eleventh hour. Indeed, in some cases UDF candidates were in fact members of DL. 27 The growth of New UDF in 2002 (Tables 7.1 and 7.2) derive principally from other components of the UDF which remained within New UDF. 28 In 1958, during the first legislative elections of the Fifth Republic, the Independents of the CNI – the precursors to the PR – won 118 seats and became the second largest group in the National Assembly. General de Gaulle’s

in The French party system
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Refugees

until the time comes for you to return once again to your country.’28 Depending on which version was being relayed, it ended, ‘Long Live Queen Wilhelmina’, ‘Long Live King Leopold’, and always ‘God save King George’. There was no ‘Vive, la France’; nor later was there ‘Vive, le maréchal Pétain’, or for that matter ‘Vive, le général de Gaulle’. Reading the minutes of the local government authorities in London, it seems that the reception of refugees went without a hitch. ‘An intimation from the Ministry of Health that about 1,200 refugees will be 2499 Chap2 7

in The forgotten French
The role of France and French interests in European development policy since 1957

.-C. Smouts (ed.), Les Nouvelles Relations Internationales. Pratiques et Théories, Paris: Presses de la Fondation Nationale de Science Politique. Lister, M. R. (1988), The European Community and the Developing World, Aldershot: Avebury. Mitterrand, F. (1957), Présence Française et Abandon, Paris: Plon. Moravcsik, A. (1999 and 2000), ‘Le grain et la grandeur: les origines économiques de la politique européenne du Général de Gaulle’, Revue Française de Science Politique 49: 4–5, pp. 507–43 (première partie); 50: 1, pp. 73–122 (deuxième partie). Moreau-Desfarges, Ph. (1994

in EU development cooperation
Bureaucratic politics in EU aid – from the Lomé leap forward to the difficulties of adapting to the twenty-first century

the aid relationship he became the paymaster of several French parties. In the 1990s Omar Bongo wrote that in the 1960s he had asked General de Gaulle why he was so reticent about British entry (‘mais pourquoi, mon Général?’). The General replied ‘It is because of you others, the francophone Africans. For you in this affair of the European Community, everything happens pro rata because of demography, so when you see the giants, Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya beside Gabon, one must be vigilant’ (Bongo 90, 1994). India, Pakistan, Malaysia, and even the later poverty

in EU development cooperation
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The French search mission for the corpses of deportees in Germany, 1946–58

by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Department – Central Europe Division at the embassy of Bad Godesberg, regarding the problems of maintenance of civil and military war graves after the contractual agreements came into force on 1 December 1953. Jean Sauvagnargues, 1915–2002. A former student at the École Normale Supérieure, and member of the Foreign Office, Sauvagnargues joined France Libre in 1943. He was a member of Général de Gaulle’s cabinet during the Liberation, Director of German and Austrian Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Minister of

in Human remains and mass violence