Charles de Gaulle was the leader of the Free French Forces based in London after the 1940 defeat of France. He went on to become Prime Minister, following France's liberation in 1944.
He retired from politics in 1946, but returned to form the Fifth Republic in response to the crisis in Algeria. He was president from 1959 to 1969, during which time he withdrew France from NATO and barred Britain's entry into the EEC.
Frederick Forsyth's bestselling thriller, The Day of the Jackal, describes an assassination attempt on de Gaulle.
Online archive of photographs, papers, letters of General de Gaulle.
De Gaulle broadcast a call to arms on 18 June 1940, following the fall of France and the British evacuation from the beaches of Dunkirk:
- The leaders who, for many years, have been at the head of the French armies have formed a government. This government, alleging the defeat of our armies, has made contact with the enemy in order to stop the fighting. It is true, we were, we are, overwhelmed by the mechanical, ground and air forces of the enemy. Infinitely more than their number, it is the tanks, the airplanes, the tactics of the Germans which are causing us to retreat. It was the tanks, the airplanes, the tactics of the Germans that surprised our leaders to the point of bringing them to where they are today.
- But has the last word been said? Must hope disappear? Is defeat final? No!
- Believe me, I who am speaking to you with full knowledge of the facts, and who tell you that nothing is lost for France. The same means that overcame us can bring us victory one day. For France is not alone! She is not alone! She is not alone! She has a vast Empire behind her. She can align with the British Empire that holds the sea and continues the fight. She can, like England, use without limit the immense industry of the United States.
- General de Gaulle speaking on the BBC during World war II - Credit: Bridgeman Art Archive
- I, General de Gaulle, currently in London, invite the officers and the French soldiers who are located in British territory or who might end up here, with their weapons or without their weapons, I invite the engineers and the specialised workers of the armament industries who are located in British territory or who might end up here, to put themselves in contact with me.
- Whatever happens, the flame of the French resistance must not be extinguished and will not be extinguished.