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The appeal of June 18… is also Churchill's appeal to Europeans

ChurchillOffice.jpg(B2) On June 18, 1940, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill appeared before the House of Commons. The day after France's request for an armistice. It calls into question not only the French tactical error but also what must be called a political betrayal, a breach of the agreement signed on March 28, 1940 not to sign a separate peace. Then, faithful to his constant policy, he calls for continuing the struggle, possibly with “any other French government” (1).

On the tactical side, the observation of the Conservative Prime Minister is direct: “the colossal military disaster which occurred when the French High Command did not withdraw the armies of the North from Belgium, even though it knew that the French front was irremediably buried at Sedan and on the Meuse. This delay resulted in the loss of 15 to 16 French divisions and put the entire British Expeditionary Force out of action at a critical moment.. The British army and 120.000 French soldiers re-embark at Dunkirk but lose “ (its) artillery, (its) vehicles and (its) modern equipment ».

On the political side, his lucidity is even more so: “ We still do not know what will happen in France, and whether French resistance will continue, on French soil and in the Empire. The French government will let great opportunities slip away and seriously compromise the future of France if it does not continue the war in accordance with the clauses of the treaty from which we did not believe it was necessary to unbind it. But he calls for change: Whatever happens in France, with the current government, or with any other
French government, all of us, on this island and in the Empire, will never deny the fraternity that unites us to the French people.”

On the strategic side, Churchill draws up what may be an inventory of the British's capacity to resist the Nazis: “more than a million 250.000 men under arms and behind them, half a million local defense volunteers (LDF), only part of whom are already equipped with rifles…, elite troops from the Dominions… fighter aviation stronger than it has ever been compared to that of the Germans " Etc. And he reiterates the resolve of Great Britain and the British Empire to continue the struggle " even if it takes years, even if we are alone ". " We are not giving up any of our legitimate claims; we are not going back an inch, not an iota. The Czechs, the Poles, the Norwegians, the Dutch, the Belgians have linked their fate to ours: all will one day be restored to their rights. »

Several European governments join London, capital-refuge for the Resistance

In London, in the summer of 1940, De Gaulle must have felt a little alone in the face of the governments of several European countries who had chosen, often with weapons and baggage, to join the resistance.

One of the first governments to join the British was the Norvégien. King Haakon VII and the government take refuge in London. It is followed by the government Dutch, which Queen leads, arrives in May. Queen Wilhelmina dissuades her Prime Minister, Dirk Jan de Geer, from signing a separate peace, then dismisses him as unreliable. It is Pieter Gerbrandy who takes over. In the basket, the Netherlands brings the Dutch fleet, the oil reserves of the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia).

Polish ArmyCampSuisse.jpg

On June 19, it was the turn of the Polish government to form itself in London to “continue the fight” (it left France, first Paris then Angers).

General Wadysaw Sikorski launched an appeal on the radio, on June 19, to Polish soldiers present on the continent to continue the fight as an ally of the United Kingdom and called on the Polish units present in France (around 80.000 men) to join England, either by sea or through Switzerland. Part of it has already re-embarkated at Dunkirk (notably the 10th Armored Cavalry Army).

Personalized Polish units, who were among the last to fight in France... until June 18, notably around Belfort. The first division and the second division pass to Switzerland.

The government Czechoslovakian, led by Beneš and with Jan Masaryk in Foreign Affairs, also chose the path to London. Then it's the government's turn Belgian, despite a little hesitation, and the capitulation of King Leopold III. The Belgians bring their Belgian colony from the Congo, a valuable contribution, particularly for minerals.

The French government (with Pétain) is thus one of the only allied governments (with the Danish government) to have remained in power and to have collaborated with the Nazi authorities!

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

(1) Extracts from Winston Churchill's "War Speech"

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).