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Free France
Free France
and its Free French Forces (French: France
France
Libre and Forces françaises libres) were the government-in-exile led by Charles de Gaulle during the Second World War
Second World War
and its military forces, that continued to fight against the Axis powers
Axis powers
as one of the Allies after the fall of France. Set up in London
London
in June 1940, it organised and supported the Resistance in occupied France. Charles de Gaulle, a French government minister who rejected the armistice concluded by Marshal Philippe Pétain
Philippe Pétain
and who had escaped to Britain, exhorted the French to resist in his BBC broadcast "Appeal of 18 June" (Appel du 18 juin), which had a stirring effect on morale throughout France
France
and its colonies, although initially relatively few French forces responded to de Gaulle's call for resistance. On 27 October 1940, the Empire Defense Council (Conseil de défense de l'Empire) was constituted to organise the rule of the territories in central Africa, Asia and Oceania that had heeded the 18 June call. It was replaced on 24 September 1941 by the French National Committee (Comité national français or CNF). On 13 July 1942, "Free France" was officially renamed France
France
combattante ("Fighting France"), to mark that the struggle against the Axis was conducted both externally by the FFF and internally by the French Forces of the Interior
French Forces of the Interior
(FFI). After the reconquest of North Africa, this was in turn formally merged with de Gaulle's rival general Henri Giraud's command in Algiers
Algiers
to form the French Committee of National Liberation
French Committee of National Liberation
(Comité français de Libération nationale or CFNL). Exile officially ended with the liberation of Paris by the 2nd Armoured Free French Division and Resistance forces on 25 August 1944, ushering in the Provisional Government of the French Republic (gouvernement provisoire de la République française or GPRF). It ruled France
France
until the end of the war and afterwards to 1946, when the Fourth Republic was established, thus ending the series of interim regimes that had succeeded the Third Republic after its fall in 1940. The Free French fought Axis and Vichy regime
Vichy regime
troops and served on battlefronts everywhere from the Middle East to Indochina
Indochina
and North Africa. The Free French Navy
Free French Navy
operated as an auxiliary force to the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
and, in the North Atlantic, to the Royal Canadian Navy.[1] Free French units also served in the Royal Air Force, Soviet Air Force, and British SAS, before larger commands were established directly under the control of the government-in-exile. From colonial outposts in Africa, India, and the Pacific, Free France steadily took over more and more Vichy
Vichy
possessions, until after the Allied landings in North Africa
Allied landings in North Africa
(Operation Torch) in November 1942 Vichy
Vichy
only ruled over the zone libre in southern France
France
and a few possessions in the West Indies
West Indies
(and nominally over Japanese-occupied French Indochina). The French Army
French Army
of Africa switched allegiance to Free France, and this caused the Axis to occupy Vichy
Vichy
in reaction. On August 1, 1943, L'Armée d'Afrique was formally united with the Free French Forces to form L'Armée française de la Liberation. By mid-1944, the forces of this army numbered more than 400,000, and they participated in the Normandy landings
Normandy landings
and the invasion of southern France, eventually leading the drive on Paris. Soon they were fighting in Alsace, the Alps
Alps
and Brittany, and by the end of the war in Europe, they were 1,300,000 strong – the fourth-largest Allied army in Europe – and took part in the Allied advance through France
France
and invasion of Germany. The Free French government re-established a provisional republic after the liberation, preparing the ground for the Fourth Republic in 1946.

Contents

1 Definition 2 History

2.1 Prelude 2.2 De Gaulle rallies the Free French 2.3 Armistice 2.4 Beginnings of the Free French forces 2.5 Composition 2.6 Cross of Lorraine 2.7 Mers El Kébir and the fate of the French Navy

3 The struggle for control of the French colonies

3.1 African campaign and the Empire Defence Council 3.2 Asia and the Pacific 3.3 North America 3.4 Syria
Syria
and East Africa 3.5 Creation of the French National Committee (CNF) 3.6 Madagascar 3.7 Battle of Bir Hakeim

4 First successes

4.1 Operation Torch 4.2 Creation of the French Committee of National Liberation
French Committee of National Liberation
(CFNL) 4.3 Eastern Front 4.4 Tunisia, Italy and Corsica 4.5 The Forces Françaises Combattantes and National Council of the Resistance

5 Liberation of France

5.1 Normandy
Normandy
and Provence
Provence
landings 5.2 Liberation of Paris

6 The provisional republic and the war against Germany and Japan

6.1 Re-establishment of a provisional French Republic and its government (GPRF) 6.2 Campaigns in France
France
and Germany 1944–1945 6.3 World War II
World War II
victory

7 Legacy 8 Free French 9 French who joined after 1942 10 See also 11 Notes 12 References

12.1 Citations 12.2 Sources

13 External links

Definition[edit]

Commemorative medal for voluntary service in Free France

Historically, an individual became "Free French" by enlisting in the military units organised by the CFN or by employment by the civilian arm of the Committee. On 1 August 1943 after the merger of CFN and representatives of the former Vichy regime
Vichy regime
in North Africa to form the CFLN earlier in June, the FFF and the Armée d'Afrique (constituting a major part of the Vichy
Vichy
regular forces allowed by the 1940 armistice) were merged to form the French Liberation Army, Armée française de la Libération, and all subsequent enlistments were in this combined force. In many sources, Free French describes any French individual or unit that fought against Axis forces after the June 1940 armistice. Postwar, to settle disputes over the Free French heritage, the French government issued an official definition of the term. Under this "ministerial instruction of July 1953" (instruction ministérielle du 29 juillet 1953), only those who served with the Allies after the Franco-German armistice in 1940 and before 1 August 1943 may correctly be called "Free French".[2] History[edit] Prelude[edit]

Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle
was an armoured division commander and a minister in the Reynaud government during the Battle of France.

On 10 May 1940, Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
invaded France
France
and the Low Countries, rapidly defeating the French, Belgian, Dutch and British armies. During the six-week Battle of France, German armoured units attacked in a surprise thrust through the Ardennes and surrounded Allied units that had advanced into Belgium. Facing certain defeat, the British decided to remove the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), along with several French divisions, from mainland France
France
in the Dunkirk evacuation. Between 27 May and 4 June, around 200,000 British soldiers and 140,000 French troops were evacuated from the beaches to safety in England.[3] General Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle
was a minister in the French cabinet during the Battle of France, only recently promoted to brigadier general.[4] He had been a pre-war proponent of the revolutionary modern armoured warfare ideas so successfully put in practice by the Wehrmacht, and he commanded the 4th Armoured Division at the Battle of Montcornet.[4] He favoured continued resistance against Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
and Fascist Italy, but found himself part of a small group of politicians who felt this way. Prime Minister Paul Reynaud
Paul Reynaud
sent him as an emissary to London
London
to help negotiate a proposed union between France
France
and Britain, but after this plan collapsed, Reynaud resigned on 16 June.[5] That same day, the new French President of the Council, former First World War Marshal Philippe Pétain, began negotiations with Axis officials. De Gaulle briefly travelled to Bordeaux
Bordeaux
to continue the fight but, realising that Pétain would sign an armistice, he returned to London on 17 June.[4] De Gaulle rallies the Free French[edit]

In Occupied France
Occupied France
during the war, reproductions of the 18 June appeal were distributed through underground means as pamphlets and plastered on walls as posters by supporters of the Résistance. This could be a dangerous activity.

Main article: Appeal of 18 June On 18 June, General de Gaulle spoke to the French people
French people
via BBC radio, urging French soldiers, sailors and airmen to join in the fight against the Nazis:

" France
France
is not alone! She is not alone! She has a great empire behind her! Together with the British Empire, she can form a bloc that controls the seas and continue the struggle. She may, like England, draw upon the limitless industrial resources of the United States".[4]

Some members of the British Cabinet had reservations about de Gaulle's speech, fearing that such a broadcast could provoke the Pétain government into handing the French fleet over to the Nazis,[6] but British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, despite his own concerns, agreed to the broadcast. In France, de Gaulle's "Appeal of 18 June" (Appel du 18 juin) was not widely heard that day but, together with his BBC broadcasts[7] in subsequent days and his later communications, came to be widely remembered throughout France
France
and its colonial empire as the voice of national honour and freedom. Armistice[edit] On the 19 of June, de Gaulle again broadcast to the French nation saying that in France, "all forms of authority had disappeared" and since its government had "fallen under the bondage of the enemy and all our institutions have ceased to function", that it was "the clear duty" of all French servicemen to fight on.[8] This would form the essential legal basis of de Gaulle's government in exile, that the armistice soon to be signed with the Nazis was not merely dishonourable but illegal, and that in signing it, the French government would itself be committing treason.[8] On the other hand, if Vichy
Vichy
was the legal French government as some such as Julian T. Jackson have argued, de Gaulle and his followers were revolutionaries, unlike the Dutch, Belgian, and other governments in exile in London.[9] A third option might be that neither considered that a fully free, legitimate, sovereign, and independent successor state to the Third Republic existed following the Armistice, as both Free France
France
and Vichy France
Vichy France
refrained from making that implicit claim by studiously avoiding using the word "republic" when referring to themselves,[citation needed] even though republicanism had been a core ideological value and central tenet of the French state ever since the French Revolution—and especially since the Franco-Prussian War. In Vichy's case those reasons were compounded with ideas of a Révolution nationale about stamping out France's republican heritage. On 22 June 1940, Marshal Pétain signed an armistice with Germany, followed by a similar one with Italy on 24 June; both of these came into force on 25 June.[10] After a parliamentary vote on 10 July, Pétain became leader of the newly established authoritarian regime known as Vichy
Vichy
France, the town of Vichy
Vichy
being the seat of government. De Gaulle was tried in absentia in Vichy France
Vichy France
and sentenced to death for treason.[11] He, on the other hand, regarded himself as the last remaining member of the legitimate Reynaud government, and considered Pétain's assumption of power to be an unconstitutional coup d'état. Beginnings of the Free French forces[edit]

Emile Fayolle, pilot of the Free French Air Force, during the Battle of Britain.[12]

Despite de Gaulle's call to continue the struggle, few French forces initially pledged their support. By the end of July 1940, only about 7,000 soldiers had joined the Free French Army
French Army
in England.[13][14] Three-quarters of French servicemen in Britain requested repatriation.[15] France
France
was bitterly divided by the conflict. Frenchmen everywhere were forced to choose sides, and often deeply resented those who had made a different choice.[16] One French admiral, Rene Godfroy, voiced the opinion of many of those who decided not to join the Free French forces, when in June 1940, he explained to the exasperated British why he would not order his ships from their Alexandria harbour to join de Gaulle:

"For us Frenchmen, the fact is that a government still exists in France, a government supported by a Parliament established in non-occupied territory and which in consequence cannot be considered irregular or deposed. The establishment elsewhere of another government, and all support for this other government, would clearly be rebellion".[16]

Equally, few Frenchmen believed that England could stand alone. In June 1940, Pétain and his generals told Churchill that "in three weeks, England will have her neck wrung like a chicken".[17] Of France's far-flung empire, only the Franco-British ruled New Hebrides condominium in the Pacific answered on July 20 De Gaulle's call to arms. It was not until late August that Free France
Free France
would gain significant support in French Equatorial Africa.[18] Unlike the troops at Dunkirk or naval forces at sea, relatively few members of the French Air Force
French Air Force
had the means or opportunity to escape. Like all military personnel trapped on the mainland, they were functionally subject to the Pétain government: "French authorities made it clear that those who acted on their own initiative would be classed as deserters, and guards were placed to thwart efforts to get on board ships".[19] In the summer of 1940, around a dozen pilots made it to England and volunteered for the RAF
RAF
to help fight the Luftwaffe.[20][21] Many more, however, made their way through long and circuitous routes to French territories overseas, eventually regrouping as the Free French Air Force.[22] The French Navy
French Navy
was better able to immediately respond to de Gaulle's call to arms. Most units initially stayed loyal to Vichy, but about 3,600 sailors operating 50 ships around the world joined with the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
and formed the nucleus of the Free French Naval Forces.[14] France's surrender found her only aircraft carrier, Béarn, en route from the United States loaded with a precious cargo of American fighter and bomber aircraft. Unwilling to return to occupied France, but likewise reluctant to join de Gaulle, Béarn instead sought harbour in Martinique, her crew showing little inclination to side with the British in their continued fight against the Nazis. Already obsolete at the start of the war, she would remain in Martinique
Martinique
for the next four years, her aircraft rusting in the tropical climate.[23] Composition[edit]

Free French Forces Adrian helmet
Adrian helmet
with the Cross of Lorraine
Cross of Lorraine
replacing the 1939–1940 French Republic "RF" emblem

See also: French Equatorial Africa, French West Africa, and French colonial empire Initially at least, the Free French forces were drawn mostly from the French colonial empire, rather than from metropolitan France. In numerous cases, contacts sent out to convince people on the continent to provide assistance, were instead delivered to the Gestapo. French nationals from the tropical African colonies formed a large part of the forces at the beginning, as were nationals from French Algeria. Later, many combatants were drawn from the native populations of French colonies. Most were conscripts from French West Africa, primarily Senegal; on the eve of the Liberation of Paris, 65% of the Free "French" forces were actually not from Metropolitan France Senegalese Tirailleurs.[24] Other contingents were natives of Morocco, Algeria, and Tahiti (the Tahitians served with particular distinction in the western Sahara). The Free French forces also included units of the Foreign Legion. The Free French units in the Royal Air Force, Soviet Air Force, and British SAS
British SAS
were mainly composed of men from metropolitan France. Cross of Lorraine[edit]

The Free French naval jack and French naval honour jack. The argent rhomboid field is defaced with a gules Lorraine cross, the emblem of the Free French.

Capitaine de corvette Thierry d'Argenlieu[25] suggested the adoption of the Cross of Lorraine
Cross of Lorraine
as a symbol of the Free French. This to recall, the perseverance of Joan of Arc, patron saint of France, whose symbol it had been, the province where she was born, and now partially annexed into Alsace-Lorraine
Alsace-Lorraine
by the Third Reich, and as a response to the symbol of national-socialism, the Nazi swastika.[26] In his general order № 2 of 3 July 1940, Vice Admiral
Admiral
Émile Muselier, two days after assuming the post of chief of the naval and air forces of the Free French, created the naval jack displaying the French colours with a red cross of Lorraine, and a cockade, which also featured the cross of Lorraine. Modern ships that share the same name as ships of the FNFL
FNFL
(such as the nuclear attack submarine Rubis and nuclear ballistic missile submarine Le Triomphant), are entitled to fly the Free French naval jack as a mark of honour.[citation needed]

The Free French Memorial, looking out over the Firth of Clyde.

A monument on Lyle Hill
Lyle Hill
in Greenock, in the shape of the Cross of Lorraine combined with an anchor, was raised by subscription as a memorial to the Free French naval vessels which sailed from the Firth of Clyde to take part in the Battle of the Atlantic. It has plaques commemorating the loss of the Flower-class corvettes Alyssa and Mimosa, and of the submarine Surcouf.[27] Locally, it is also associated with the memory of the loss of the Maillé Brézé which blew up at the Tail of the Bank. Mers El Kébir and the fate of the French Navy[edit] See also: Free French Naval Forces After the fall of France, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill feared that, in German or Italian hands, the ships of the French Navy would pose a grave threat to the Allies. He therefore insisted that French warships either join the Allies or else adopt neutrality in a British, French, or neutral port. Churchill was determined that French warships would not be in a position to support a German invasion of Britain, though he feared that a direct attack on the French Navy might cause the Vichy regime
Vichy regime
to actively ally itself with the Nazis.[15]

A very modern Dunkerque-class battleship
Dunkerque-class battleship
commissioned in 1937, Strasbourg
Strasbourg
was potentially a quite substantial threat to British control of the sealanes were she to fall into Axis hands.

Submarine Rubis. With 22 ships sunk (12 of them German men-of-war) on 22 operational patrols, she achieved the highest kill number of the FNFL.

On 3 July 1940, Admiral
Admiral
Marcel-Bruno Gensoul was provided an ultimatum by the British:

It is impossible for us, your comrades up to now, to allow your fine ships to fall into the power of the German enemy. We are determined to fight on until the end, and if we win, as we think we shall, we shall never forget that France
France
was our Ally, that our interests are the same as hers, and that our common enemy is Germany. Should we conquer we solemnly declare that we shall restore the greatness and territory of France. For this purpose we must make sure that the best ships of the French Navy
French Navy
are not used against us by the common foe. In these circumstances, His Majesty's Government have instructed me to demand that the French Fleet now at Mers el Kebir and Oran
Oran
shall act in accordance with one of the following alternatives; (a) Sail with us and continue the fight until victory against the Germans. (b) Sail with reduced crews under our control to a British port. The reduced crews would be repatriated at the earliest moment. If either of these courses is adopted by you we will restore your ships to France
France
at the conclusion of the war or pay full compensation if they are damaged meanwhile. (c) Alternatively if you feel bound to stipulate that your ships should not be used against the Germans lest they break the Armistice, then sail them with us with reduced crews to some French port in the West Indies
West Indies
Martinique
Martinique
for instance – where they can be demilitarised to our satisfaction, or perhaps be entrusted to the United States and remain safe until the end of the war, the crews being repatriated. If you refuse these fair offers, I must with profound regret, require you to sink your ships within 6 hours. Finally, failing the above, I have the orders from His Majesty's Government to use whatever force may be necessary to prevent your ships from falling into German hands.[28]

Gensoul's orders allowed him to accept internment in the West Indies,[29] but after a discussion lasting ten hours, he rejected all offers, and British warships commanded by Admiral
Admiral
James Somerville attacked French ships at Mers El Kébir in Algeria, sinking or crippling three battleships.[15] Because the Vichy
Vichy
government only said that there had been no alternatives offered, the attack caused great bitterness in France, particularly in the Navy (over 1,000 French sailors were killed), and helped to reinforce the ancient stereotype of perfide Albion. Such actions discouraged many French soldiers from joining the Free French forces.[16] Despite this, some French warships and sailors did remain on the Allied side or join the FNFL
FNFL
later, such as the mine-laying submarine Rubis, whose crew voted almost unanimously to fight alongside Britain,[30] the destroyer Le Triomphant, and the then-largest submarine in the world, the Surcouf. The first loss of the FNFL occurred on 7 November 1940, when the patrol boat Poulmic struck a mine in the English Channel.[31] Most ships that had remained on the Vichy
Vichy
side and were not scuttled with the main French fleet in Toulon, mostly those in the colonies that had remained loyal to Vichy
Vichy
until the end of the regime through the Case Anton
Case Anton
Axis invasion and occupation of the 'zone libre and Tunisia, changed sides then. In November 1940, around 1,700 officers and men of the French Navy took advantage of the British offer of repatriation to France, and were transported home on a hospital ship travelling under the international Red Cross. This did not stop the Germans from torpedoing the ship, and 400 men were drowned.[32] The FNFL, commanded first by Admiral
Admiral
Emile Muselier
Emile Muselier
and then by Philippe Auboyneau
Philippe Auboyneau
and Georges Thierry d'Argenlieu, played a role in the liberation of French colonies throughout the world including Operation Torch
Operation Torch
in French north Africa, escorting convoys during the Battle of the Atlantic, in supporting the French Resistance
French Resistance
in non-Free French territories, in Operation Neptune
Operation Neptune
in Normandy
Normandy
and Operation Dragoon
Operation Dragoon
in Provence
Provence
for the liberation of mainland France, and in the Pacific War. In total[citation needed] during the war, around 50 major ships and a few dozen minor and auxiliary ships were part of the Free French navy. It also included half a dozen battalions of naval infantry and commandos, as well as naval aviation squadrons, one aboard HMS Indomitable and one squadron of anti-submarine Catalinas. The French merchant marine siding with the Allies counted over 170 ships. The struggle for control of the French colonies[edit]

The gradual loss of all Vichy
Vichy
territory to Free France
Free France
and the Axis by 1943. Legend.

With metropolitan France
France
firmly under Germany's thumb and the Allies too weak to challenge this, de Gaulle turned his attention to France's vast overseas empire. African campaign and the Empire Defence Council[edit] De Gaulle was optimistic that France's colonies in western and central Africa, which had strong trading links with British territories, might be sympathetic to the Free French.[33] Pierre Boisson, the governor-general of French Equatorial Africa, was a staunch supporter of the Vichy
Vichy
regime, unlike Félix Éboué, the governor of French Chad, a subsection of the overall colony. Boisson was soon promoted to " High Commissioner
High Commissioner
of Colonies" and transferred to Dakar, leaving Éboué with more direct authority over Chad. On 26 August, with the help of his top military official, Éboué pledged his colony's allegiance to Free France.[34] By the end of August, all of French Equatorial Africa (including the League of Nations mandate French Cameroun) had joined Free France, with the exception of French Gabon.[35] With these colonies came vital manpower – a large number of African colonial troops, who would form the nucleus of de Gaulle's army. From July to November 1940, the FFF would engage in fighting with troops loyal to Vichy France
Vichy France
in Africa, with success and failure on both sides.

A Chadian soldier fighting for Free France

de Gaulle meeting Félix Éboué
Félix Éboué
in Chad

In September 1940 an Anglo French naval force fought the Battle of Dakar, also known as operation Menace, an unsuccessful attempt to capture the strategic port of Dakar
Dakar
in French West Africa. The local authorities were not impressed by the Allied show of strength, and had the better of the naval bombardment which followed, leading to a humiliating withdrawal by the Allied ships. So strong was de Gaulle's sense of failure that he even considered suicide.[36] There was better news in November 1940 when the FFF achieved victory at the Battle of Gabon
Battle of Gabon
(or Battle of Libreville) under the very skilled General Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque
Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque
(General Leclerc).[37] De Gaulle personally surveyed the situation in Chad, the first African colony to join Free France, located on the southern border of Libya, and the battle resulted in free French forces taking Libreville, Gabon.[38] By the end of November 1940 French Equatorial Africa
French Equatorial Africa
was wholly under the control of Free France, but the failures at Dakar
Dakar
had led French West Africa to declare allegiance to Vichy, to which they would remain loyal until the fall of the regime in November 1942. On 27 October 1940 the Empire Defence Council was established to organise and administrate the imperial possessions under Free French rule, and as an alternative provisional French government. It was constituted of high-ranking officers and the governors of the free colonies, notably governor Félix Éboué
Félix Éboué
of Chad. Its creation was announced by the Brazzaville
Brazzaville
Manifesto that day. La France
France
libre was what de Gaulle claimed to represent, or rather, as he put it simply, "La France"; Vichy France
Vichy France
was a "pseudo government", an illegal entity.[39] In 1941-2, the African FFF slowly grew in strength and even expanded operations north into Italian Libya. In February 1941, Free French Forces invaded Cyrenaica, again led by Leclerc, capturing the Italian fort at the oasis of Kufra.[37] In 1942, Leclerc's forces and soldiers from the British Long Range Desert Group
Long Range Desert Group
captured parts of the province of Fezzan.[37] At the end of 1942, Leclerc moved his forces into Tripolitania
Tripolitania
to join British Commonwealth and other FFF forces in the Run for Tunis.[37] Asia and the Pacific[edit]

Insigna of the Free French Forces in the Far East (French Indochina), Langlade Mission

France
France
also had an empire in Asia and the Pacific, and these far-flung colonies would experience similar problems of divided loyalties. French India
French India
and the French South Pacific colonies of New Caledonia, French Polynesia
French Polynesia
and the New Hebrides
New Hebrides
joined the Free France
Free France
in the summer 1940, drawing official American interest.[35] These South Pacific colonies would later provide vital Allied bases in the Pacific Ocean during the war with Japan. French Indochina
French Indochina
was invaded by Japan in September 1940, although for most of the war the colony remained under nominal Vichy
Vichy
control. On 9 March 1945, the Japanese launched a coup and took full control of Indochina. From June 1940 until February 1943, the concession of Guangzhouwan (Kouang-Tchéou-Wan or Fort-Boyard), in South China, remained under the administration of Free France. The Republic of China, after the fall of Paris in 1940, recognised the London-exiled Free French government as Guangzhouwan's legitimate authority and established diplomatic relations with them, something facilitated by the fact that the colony was surrounded by the Republic of China's territory and was not in physical contact with French Indochina. In February 1943 the Imperial Japanese Army
Imperial Japanese Army
invaded and occupied the leased territory.[40] North America[edit] In North America, Saint-Pierre and Miquelon
Saint-Pierre and Miquelon
(near Newfoundland) joined the Free French after an "invasion" on 24 December 1941 by Rear Admiral
Admiral
Emile Muselier
Emile Muselier
and the forces he was able to load onto three corvettes and a submarine of the FNFL. The action at Saint-Pierre and Miquelon created a serious diplomatic incident with the United States, despite this being the first French possession in the Americas to join the Allies,[41] which doctrinally objected to the use of military means by colonial powers in the western hemisphere and recognised Vichy
Vichy
as the official French government. Mainly because of this and of the often very frosty relations between Free France
Free France
and the USA (with President Roosevelt's profound distrust of de Gaulle playing a key part in that, with him being firmly convinced that the general's aim was to create a South-American style junta and become the dictator of France[42]), other French possessions in the new world were among the very last to defect from Vichy
Vichy
to the Allies (with Martinique
Martinique
holding out until July 1943). Syria
Syria
and East Africa[edit]

The fall of Damascus
Damascus
to the Allies, late June 1941. A car carrying Free French commanders General Georges Catroux
Georges Catroux
and General Paul Louis Le Gentilhomme enters the city, escorted by French Circassian cavalry (Gardes Tcherkess).

In 1941, the FFF fought alongside British Empire
British Empire
troops against the Italians in Italian East Africa
Italian East Africa
during the East African Campaign. In June 1941, during the Syria-Lebanon campaign
Syria-Lebanon campaign
(Operation Exporter), Free French Forces fighting alongside British Commonwealth forces faced substantial numbers of troops loyal to Vichy France
Vichy France
– this time in the Levant. De Gaulle had assured Churchill that the French units in Syria
Syria
would rise to the call of Free France
Free France
– but this was not the case.[43] After bitter fighting, with around 1,000 dead on each side (including Vichy
Vichy
and Free French Foreign Legionnaires fraticide when the 13th Demi-Brigade (D.B.L.E.) clashed with the 6th Foreign Infantry Regiment near Damascus). General Henri Dentz and his Vichy
Vichy
Army of the Levant
Levant
were eventually defeated by the largely British allied forces in July 1941.[43] The British did not themselves occupy Syria; rather, the Free French General Georges Catroux
Georges Catroux
was appointed High Commissioner
High Commissioner
of the Levant, and from this point, Free France
Free France
would control both Syria
Syria
and Lebanon until they became independent in 1946 and 1943 respectively. However, despite this success, the numbers of the FFF did not grow as much as has been wished for. Of nearly 38,000 Vichy
Vichy
French prisoners of war, just 5668 men volunteered to join the forces of General de Gaulle; the remainder chose to be repatriated to France.[44] Despite this bleak picture, by the end of 1941, the United States had entered the war, and the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
had also joined the Allied side, stopping the Germans outside Moscow in the first major reverse for the Nazis. Gradually the tide of war began to shift, and with it the perception that Hitler could at last be beaten. Support for Free France
France
began to grow, though the Vichy
Vichy
French forces would continue to resist Allied armies – and the Free French – when attacked by them until the end of 1942.[45] Creation of the French National Committee (CNF)[edit]

This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (June 2014)

Reflecting the growing strength of Free France
Free France
was the foundation of the French National Committee (Comité national français, CNF) in September 1941 and the official name change from France
France
Libre to France
France
combattante in July 1942. The United States granted Lend-Lease
Lend-Lease
support to the CNF on 24 November.[citation needed] Madagascar[edit] In June 1942, the British attacked the strategically important colony of French Madagascar, hoping to prevent its falling into Japanese hands and especially the use of Diego-Suarez's harbour as a base for the Imperial Japanese Navy. Once again the Allied landings faced resistance from Vichy
Vichy
forces, led by Governor-General
Governor-General
Armand Léon Annet. On 5 November 1942, Annet, at last, surrendered. As in Syria, only a minority of the captured Vichy
Vichy
soldiers chose to join the Free French.[46] After the battle, Free French general Paul Legentilhomme was appointed High Commissioner
High Commissioner
for Madagascar.[citation needed] Battle of Bir Hakeim[edit]

The FFF's tenacious defense at Bir Hakeim prevented Rommel's attempted outflank at El Alamein
El Alamein
from succeeding.

Throughout 1942 in North Africa, British Empire
British Empire
forces fought a desperate land campaign against the Germans and Italians to prevent the loss of Egypt
Egypt
and the vital Suez canal. Here, fighting in the harsh Libyan desert, Free French soldiers distinguished themselves. General Marie Pierre Koenig
Marie Pierre Koenig
and his unit—the 1st Free French Infantry Brigade—resisted the Afrika Korps
Afrika Korps
at the Battle of Bir Hakeim in June 1942, although they were eventually obliged to withdraw, as Allied forces retreated to El Alamein, their lowest ebb in the North African campaign.[47] Kœnig defended Bir Hakeim from 26 May to 11 June against superior German and Italian forces led by Generaloberst Erwin Rommel, proving that the FFF could be taken seriously by the Allies as a fighting force. British General Claude Auchinleck said on 12 June 1942, of the battle: "The United Nations need to be filled with admiration and gratitude, in respect of these French troops and their brave General Koenig".[48] Even Hitler was impressed, announcing to the journalist Lutz Koch, recently returned from Bir Hakeim:

"You hear, Gentlemen? It is a new evidence that I have always been right! The French are, after us, the best soldiers! Even with its current birthrate, France
France
will always be able to mobilise a hundred divisions! After this war, we will have to find allies able to contain a country which is capable of military exploits that astonish the world like they are doing right now in Bir-Hakeim!".[49]

First successes[edit] From 23 October to 4 November 1942, Allied forces under general Bernard Montgomery, including the FFF, won the Second battle of El Alamein, driving Rommel's Afrika Korps
Afrika Korps
out of Egypt
Egypt
and back into Libya. This was the first major success of an Allied army against the Axis powers, and marked a key turning point in the war. Operation Torch[edit]

Map of operation Torch showing landings in Morocco and Algeria

Soon afterwards in November 1942, the Allies launched operation Torch in the west, an invasion of Vichy-controlled French North Africa. An Anglo-American force of 63,000 men landed in French Morocco and Algeria.[50] The long-term goal was to clear German and Italian troops from North Africa, enhance naval control of the Mediterranean, and prepare an invasion of Italy in 1943. The Allies had hoped that Vichy forces would offer only token resistance to the Allies, but instead they fought hard, incurring heavy casualties.[51] As a French foreign legionnaire put it after seeing his comrades die in an American bombing raid: "Ever since the fall of France, we had dreamed of deliverance, but we did not want it that way".[51] After the 8 November 1942 putsch by the French resistance
French resistance
that prevented the 19th Corps to respond effectively to the allied landings around Algiers
Algiers
the same day, most Vichy
Vichy
figures were arrested (including General Alphonse Juin, chief commander in North Africa, and Vichy
Vichy
admiral François Darlan). However, Darlan was released and U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower
finally accepted his self-nomination as high commissioner of North Africa and French West Africa, a move that enraged de Gaulle, who refused to recognise his status. Henri Giraud, a general who had escaped from military captivity in Germany in April 1942, had negotiated with the Americans for leadership in the invasion. He arrived in Algiers
Algiers
on 10 November, and agreed to subordinate himself to Admiral
Admiral
Darlan as the commander of the French African army.[52] Later that day Darlan ordered a ceasefire and Vichy
Vichy
French forces began, en masse, to join the Free French cause. Initially at least the effectiveness of these new recruits was hampered by a scarcity of weaponry and, among some of the officer class, a lack of conviction in their new cause.[51] After the signing of the cease-fire, the Germans lost faith in the Vichy
Vichy
regime, and on 11 November 1942 German and Italian forces occupied Vichy France
Vichy France
(Case Anton), violating the 1940 armistice, and triggering the scuttling of the French fleet in Toulon on 27 November 1942. In response, the Vichy
Vichy
Army of Africa joined the Allied side. They fought in Tunisia for six months until April 1943, when they joined the campaign in Italy as part of the French Expeditionary Corps in Italy (FEC). Admiral
Admiral
Darlan was assassinated on 24 December 1942 in Algiers
Algiers
by the young monarchist Bonnier de La Chapelle. Although de la Chapelle had been a member of the resistance group led by Henri d'Astier de La Vigerie, it is believed he was acting as an individual. On 28 December, after a prolonged blockade, the Vichy
Vichy
forces in French Somaliland were ousted. After these successes, Guadeloupe
Guadeloupe
and Martinique
Martinique
in the West Indies—as well as French Guiana
French Guiana
on the northern coast of South America – finally joined Free France
Free France
in the first months of 1943. In November 1943, the French forces received enough military equipment through Lend-Lease
Lend-Lease
to re-equip eight divisions and allow the return of borrowed British equipment. Creation of the French Committee of National Liberation
French Committee of National Liberation
(CFNL)[edit]

Henri Giraud
Henri Giraud
and de Gaulle during the Casablanca Conference in January 1943. Churchill and Roosevelt in the background.

Further information: French Committee of National Liberation The Vichy
Vichy
forces in North Africa had been under Darlan's command and had surrendered on his orders. The Allies recognised his self-nomination as High Commissioner
High Commissioner
of France
France
(French military and civilian commander-in-chief, Commandement en chef français civil et militaire ) for North and West Africa. He ordered them to cease resisting and cooperate with the Allies, which they did. By the time the Tunisia Campaign
Tunisia Campaign
was fought, the ex- Vichy
Vichy
French forces in North Africa had been merged with the FFF.[53][54] After Admiral
Admiral
Darlan's assassination, Giraud became his de facto successor in French Africa with Allied support. This occurred through a series of consultations between Giraud and de Gaulle. The latter wanted to pursue a political position in France
France
and agreed to have Giraud as commander in chief, as the more qualified military person of the two. It is questionable that he ordered that many French resistance leaders who had helped Eisenhower's troops be arrested, without any protest by Roosevelt's representative, Robert Murphy. Later, the Americans sent Jean Monnet
Jean Monnet
to counsel Giraud and to press him into repeal the Vichy
Vichy
laws. The Cremieux decree, which granted French citizenship to Jews in Algeria and which had been repealed by Vichy, was immediately restored by General de Gaulle. Democratic rule was restored in French Algeria, and the Communists and Jews liberated from the concentration camps.[55] Giraud took part in the Casablanca conference in January 1943 with Roosevelt, Churchill and de Gaulle. The Allies discussed their general strategy for the war, and recognised joint leadership of North Africa by Giraud and de Gaulle. Henri Giraud
Henri Giraud
and Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle
then became co-presidents of the French Committee of National Liberation (Comité Français de Libération Nationale, CFLN), which unified the territories controlled by them and was officially founded on 3 June 1943. The CFLN set up a temporary French government in Algiers, raised more troops and re-organised, re-trained and re-equipped the Free French military, in cooperation with Allied forces in preparation of future operations against Italy and the German Atlantic wall. Eastern Front[edit]

FAFL Normandie-Niemen
Normandie-Niemen
Yak-3 preserved at the Paris Le Bourget
Le Bourget
museum

The Normandie-Niemen
Normandie-Niemen
Regiment, founded at the suggestion of Charles de Gaulle, was a fighter regiment of the Free French Air Force
Free French Air Force
that served on the Eastern Front of the European Theatre of World War II with the 1st Air Army. The regiment is notable for being the only air combat unit from an Allied western country to participate on the Eastern Front during World War II
World War II
(except brief interventions from RAF and USAAF units) and the only one to fight together with the Soviets until the end of the war in Europe.[citation needed] The unit was the GC3 (Groupe de Chasse 3 or 3rd Fighter Group) in the Free French Air Force, first commanded by Jean Tulasne. The unit originated in mid-1943 during World War II. Initially the groupe comprised a group of French fighter pilots sent to aid Soviet forces at the suggestion of Charles de Gaulle, leader of the Free French Forces, who felt it important that French servicemen serve on all fronts in the war. The regiment fought in three campaigns on behalf of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
between 22 March 1943, and 9 May 1945, during which time it destroyed 273 enemy aircraft and received numerous orders, citations and decorations from both France
France
and the Soviet Union, including the French Légion d'Honneur and the Soviet Order of the Red Banner. Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
awarded the unit the name Niemen for its participation in the Battle of the Niemen River.[citation needed] Tunisia, Italy and Corsica[edit] The Free French forces participated in the campaign of Tunisia. Together with British and Commonwealth forces, the FFF advanced from the south while the formerly Vichy-loyal Army of Africa advanced from the west together with the Americans. The fighting in Tunisia ended in July 1943 with an Allied victory.[citation needed] During the campaign in Italy during 1943–44, a total of between 70,000[13] and 130,000[citation needed] Free French soldiers, mostly colonial troops, fought on the Allied side. They took part in the fighting on the Winter Line
Winter Line
and Gustav Line, distinguishing themselves at Monte Cassino in Operation Diadem. Some elements of these colonial troops, the Moroccan Goumiers, were responsible for mass rape and killings of civilians in an incident during those operations (see Marocchinate) and were subsequently withdrawn from the Italian front.[citation needed] In September 1943, the liberation of Corsica
Corsica
from Italian occupation began, after the Italian armistice, with the landing of elements of the reconstituted French I Corps (Operation Vésuve).[citation needed] The Forces Françaises Combattantes and National Council of the Resistance[edit]

Picture of Jean Moulin
Jean Moulin
and his iconic scarf. He was probably tortured to death by Klaus Barbie
Klaus Barbie
personally.

Main article: French Resistance The French Resistance
French Resistance
gradually grew in strength. General de Gaulle set a plan to bring together the fragmented groups under his leadership. He changed the name of his movement to "Fighting French Forces" (Forces Françaises Combattantes) and sent Jean Moulin
Jean Moulin
back to France
France
as his formal link to the irregulars throughout the occupied country to coordinate the eight major Résistance
Résistance
groups into one organisation. Moulin got their agreement to form the "National Council of the Resistance" (Conseil National de la Résistance). Moulin was eventually captured, and died under brutal torture by the Gestapo. De Gaulle's influence had also grown in France, and in 1942 one resistance leader called him "the only possible leader for the France that fights".[56] Other Gaullists, those who could not leave France (that is, the overwhelming majority of them), remained in the territories ruled by Vichy
Vichy
and the Axis occupation forces, building networks of propagandists, spies and saboteurs to harass and discomfit the enemy. Later, the Resistance was more formally referred to as the "French Forces of the Interior" (Forces Françaises de l'Intérieur, or FFI). From October 1944 – March 1945, many FFI units were amalgamated into the French Army
French Army
to regularise the units. Liberation of France[edit] The liberation of continental France
France
began on D-Day, 6 June 1944, with the invasion of Normandy, the amphibious assault aimed at establishing a bridgehead for the forces of operation Overlord. At first hampered by very stiff German resistance and the bocage terrain of Normandy, the Allies broke out of Normandy
Normandy
at Avranches
Avranches
on 25–31 July 1944. Combined with the landings in Provence
Provence
of operation Dragoon on 14 August 1944, the threat of being caught in a pincer movement led to a very rapid German retreat, and by September 1944 most of France
France
had been liberated. Normandy
Normandy
and Provence
Provence
landings[edit]

Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle
speaks as president of interim government to the population of Cherbourg
Cherbourg
from the city hall's balcony on 20 August 1944

Opening a "Second Front" was a top priority of the Allies, and especially of the Soviets to relieve their burden on the Eastern Front. While Italy had been knocked out of the war in the Italian campaign in September 1943, the easily defensible terrain of the narrow peninsula required only a relatively limited number of German troops to protect and occupy their new puppet state in northern Italy. However, as the Dieppe raid
Dieppe raid
had shown, assaulting the Atlantic Wall was not an endeavour to be taken lightly. It required extensive preparations such as the construction of artificial ports (operation Mulberry) and an underwater pipeline across the English Channel (operation Pluto), intensive bombardment of railways and German logistics in France
France
(the Transportation Plan), and the wide-ranging military deception such as creating entire dummy armies like FUSAG (operation Bodyguard) to make the Germans believe the invasion would take place where the Channel was at its narrowest. By the time of the Normandy
Normandy
Invasion, the Free French forces numbered more than 400,000 strong.[57] 900 Free French paratroopers landed as part of the British Special Air Service
Special Air Service
(SAS) Brigade; the 2e Division Blindée (2nd Armoured Division or 2e DB)—under General Leclerc—landed at Utah Beach
Utah Beach
in Normandy
Normandy
on 1 August 1944 together with other follow-on Free French forces, and eventually led the drive toward Paris.

Western Front in 1944

In the battle for Caen, bitter fighting led to the almost total destruction of the city, and stalemated the Allies. They had more success in the western American sector of the front, where after the operation Cobra breakthrough in late July they caught 50,000 Germans in the Falaise pocket. The invasion was preceded by weeks of intense resistance activity. Coordinated with the massive bombardments of the Transportation Plan and supported by the SOE and the OSS, partisans systematically sabotaged railway lines, destroyed bridges, cut German supply lines, and provided general intelligence to the allied forces. The constant harassment took its toll on the German troops. Large remote areas were no-go zones for them and free zones for the maquisards, so-called after the maquis shrubland that provided ideal terrain for guerrilla warfare. For instance, a large number of German units were required to clear the maquis du Vercors, which they eventually succeeded with, but this and numerous other actions behind German lines contributed to a much faster advance following the Provence
Provence
landings than the Allied leadership had anticipated. The main part of French Expeditionary Corps in Italy which had been fighting there was withdrawn from the Italian front, and added to the French First Army—under General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny—and joined the US 7th Army
US 7th Army
to form the US 6th Army Group. That was the force that conducted operation Dragoon (also known as Operation Anvil), the Allied invasion of southern France.The objective of the French 2nd Corps was to capture ports at Toulon (France's largest naval port) and Marseilles (France's largest commercial port) in order to secure a vital supply line for the incoming troops. Most of the German troops there were second-line, consisting mainly of static and occupation units with a large number of Osttruppen
Osttruppen
volunteers, and with a single armoured division, the 11. Panzer-Division. The Allies sustained only relatively light casualties during the amphibious assault, and were soon in an all-out pursuit of a German army in full retreat along the Rhône
Rhône
valley and the Route Napoleon. Within 12 days the French forces were able to secure both ports, destroying two German Divisions in the process. Then on September 12, French forces were able to connect to General George Patton's Third Army. Toulon and Marseille were soon providing supplies not only to the 6th Army Group but also to General Omar Bradley's 12th Army Group, which included Patton's Army. For its part, troops from de Lattre's French First Army were the first Allied troops to reach the Rhine. While on the right flank the French liberation army was covering Alsace-Lorraine
Alsace-Lorraine
(and the Alpine front against German-occupied Italy), the centre was made up of US forces in the south (12th Army Group) and British and Commonwealth forces in the north (21st Army Group). On the left flank, Canadian forces cleared the Channel coast, taking Antwerp on 4 September 1944. Liberation of Paris[edit] Main article: Liberation of Paris After the failed 20 July plot
20 July plot
against him, Hitler had given orders to have Paris destroyed should it fall to the Allies, similarly to the planned destruction of Warsaw. Mindful of this and other strategic considerations, General Dwight D. Eisenhower was planning to by-pass the city. At this time, Parisians started a general strike on 15 August 1944 that escalated into a full-scale uprising of the FFI a few days later. As the Allied forces waited near Paris, de Gaulle and his Free French government put General Eisenhower under pressure. De Gaulle was furious about the delay and was unwilling to allow the people of Paris to be slaughtered as had happened in the Polish capital of Warsaw
Warsaw
during the Warsaw uprising. De Gaulle ordered General Leclerc to attack single-handedly without the aid of Allied forces. Eventually, Eisenhower agreed to detach the 4th US Infantry Division in support of the French attack.

Leclerc's 2nd Armoured Division (2e DB) parading down the Champs Elysées on 26 August 1944, the day after the Liberation of Paris

The Allied High Command (SHAEF) requested the Free French force in question to be all-white, if possible, but this was very difficult because of the large numbers of black West Africans in their ranks.[58] General Leclerc sent a small advance party to enter Paris, with the message that the 2e DB (composed of 10,000 French, 3,600 Maghrebis[59][60] and about 350 Spaniards[61] in the 9th company of the 3rd Battalion
Battalion
of the Régiment de Marche du Tchad made up mainly of Spanish Republican exiles[62]) would be there the following day. This party was commanded by Captain Raymond Dronne, and was given the honour to be the first Allied unit to enter Paris ahead of the 2e Division Blindée. The 1er Bataillon de Fusiliers-Marins Commandos formed from the Free French Navy
Free French Navy
Fusiliers-Marins that had landed on Sword Beach
Sword Beach
were also amongst the first of the Free French forces to enter Paris. The military governor of the city, Dietrich von Choltitz, surrendered on 25 August, ignoring Hitler's orders to destroy the city and fight to the last man.[63] Jubilant crowds greeted the Liberation of Paris. French forces and de Gaulle conducted a now iconic parade through the city. The provisional republic and the war against Germany and Japan[edit] Re-establishment of a provisional French Republic and its government (GPRF)[edit] Further information: Provisional Government of the French Republic The Provisional Government of the French Republic
Provisional Government of the French Republic
(gouvernement provisoire de la République Française or GPRF) was officially created by the CNFL and succeeded it on 3 June 1944, the day before de Gaulle arrived in London
London
from Algiers
Algiers
on Churchill's invitation, and three days before D-Day. Its creation marked the re-establishment of France
France
as a republic, and the official end of Free France. Among its most immediate concerns were to ensure that France
France
did not come under allied military administration, preserving the sovereignty of France and freeing Allied troops for fighting on the front. After the liberation of Paris on 25 August 1944, it moved back to the capital, establishing a new "national unanimity" government on 9 September 1944, including Gaullists, nationalists, socialists, communists and anarchists, and uniting the politically divided Resistance. Among its foreign policy goals was to secure a French occupation zone in Germany and a permanent UNSC seat. This was assured through a large military contribution on the western front. Several alleged Vichy
Vichy
loyalists involved in the Milice
Milice
(a paramilitary militia)—which was established by Sturmbannführer
Sturmbannführer
Joseph Darnand who hunted the Resistance with the Gestapo—were made prisoners in a post-liberation purge known as the épuration légale (legal purge or cleansing). Some were executed without trial, in "wild cleansings" (épuration sauvage). Women accused of "horizontal collaboration" because of alleged sexual relationships with Germans during the occupation were arrested and had their heads shaved, were publicly exhibited and some were allowed to be mauled by mobs. On 17 August, Pierre Laval
Pierre Laval
was taken to Belfort
Belfort
by the Germans. On 20 August, under German military escort, Marshal Philippe Pétain
Philippe Pétain
was forcibly moved to Belfort, and on 7 September to the Sigmaringen enclave in southern Germany, where 1,000 of his followers (including Louis-Ferdinand Céline) joined him. There they established a government in exile, challenging the legitimacy of de Gaulle's GPRF. As a sign of protest over his forced move, Pétain refused to take office, and was eventually replaced by Fernand de Brinon. The Vichy regime's exile ended when Free French forces reached the town and captured its members on 22 April 1945, the same day that the 3rd Algerian Infantry Division took Stuttgart. Laval, Vichy's prime minister in 1942–44, was executed for treason. Pétain, "Chief of the French State" and Verdun hero, was also condemned to death but his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. As the wartime government of France
France
in 1944–1945, its main purposes were to handle the aftermath of the occupation of France
France
and continue to wage war against Germany as a major Ally. It also made several important reforms and political decisions, such as granting women the right to vote, founding the École nationale d'administration, and laying the grounds of social security in France, and lasted until the establishment of the IVth Republic
IVth Republic
on 14 October 1946, preparing its new constitution. Campaigns in France
France
and Germany 1944–1945[edit] Main articles: Allied advance from Paris to the Rhine
Allied advance from Paris to the Rhine
and Western Allied invasion of Germany By September 1944, the Free French forces stood at 550,000 (including 195,000 French from North Africa and 295,000 Maghrebis).[64] The GPRF set about raising new troops to participate in the advance to the Rhine
Rhine
and the invasion of Germany, using the FFI as military cadres and manpower pools of experienced fighters to allow a very large and rapid expansion of the Armée française de la Libération. It was well equipped and well supplied despite the economic disruption brought by the occupation thanks to Lend-Lease, and their number rose to 1 million by the end of the year. French forces were fighting in Alsace-Lorraine, the Alps, and besieging the heavily fortified French Atlantic coast submarine bases that remained Hitler-mandated stay-behind "fortresses" in ports along the Atlantic coast like La Rochelle and Saint-Nazaire
Saint-Nazaire
until the German capitulation in May 1945. Also in September 1944, the Allies having outrun their logistic tail (the "Red Ball Express"), the front stabilised along Belgium's northern and eastern borders and in Lorraine. From then on it moved at a slower pace, first to the Siegfried Line
Siegfried Line
and then in the early months of 1945 to the Rhine
Rhine
in increments. For instance, the Ist Corps seized the Belfort
Belfort
Gap in a coup de main offensive in November 1944, their German opponents believing they had entrenched for the winter.

A plaque commemorating the Oath of Kufra
Kufra
in near the cathedral of Strasbourg

The French 2nd Armoured Division, tip of the spear of the Free French forces that had participated in the Normandy
Normandy
Campaign and liberated Paris, went on to liberate Strasbourg
Strasbourg
on 23 November 1944, thus fulfilling the Oath of Kufra
Kufra
made by its commanding officer General Leclerc almost four years earlier. The unit under his command, barely above company size when it had captured the Italian fort, had grown into a full-strength armoured division. The spearhead of the Free French First Army
French First Army
that had landed in Provence
Provence
was the Ist Corps. Its leading unit, the French 1st Armoured Division, was the first Western Allied unit to reach the Rhône
Rhône
(25 August 1944), the Rhine
Rhine
(19 November 1944) and the Danube
Danube
(21 April 1945). On 22 April 1945, it captured Sigmaringen
Sigmaringen
in Baden-Württemberg, where the last Vichy regime
Vichy regime
exiles, including Marshal Pétain, were hosted by the Germans in one of the ancestral castles of the Hohenzollern
Hohenzollern
dynasty. They participated in stopping operation Nordwind, the very last German major offensive on the western front in January 1945, and in collapsing the Colmar Pocket
Colmar Pocket
in January–February 1945, capturing and destroying most of the German XIXth Army. Operations by the First Army in April 1945 encircled and captured the German XVIII SS Corps in the Black Forest, and cleared and occupied south-western Germany. At the end of the war, the motto of the French First Army
French First Army
was Rhin et Danube, referring to the two great German rivers that it had reached and crossed during its combat operations. In May 1945, by the end of the war in Europe, the Free French forces comprised 1,300,000 personnel, and included around forty divisions making it the fourth largest Allied army in Europe behind the Soviet Union, the US and Britain.[65] The GPRF
GPRF
sent an expeditionary force to the Pacific to retake French Indochina
French Indochina
from the Japanese, but Japan surrendered before they could arrive in theatre. At that time, General Alphonse Juin
Alphonse Juin
was the chief of staff of the French army, but it was General François Sevez who represented France at Reims
Reims
on 7 May, while it was General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny
Jean de Lattre de Tassigny
who was the leader of the French delegation at Berlin
Berlin
on V-E day, as he was the commander of the French First Army. At the Yalta Conference, Germany had been divided into Soviet, American and British occupation zones, but France
France
was then given an occupation zone in Germany, as well as in Austria and in the city of Berlin. It was not only the role that France
France
played in the war which was recognised, but its important strategic position and significance in the Cold War
Cold War
as a major democratic, capitalist nation of Western Europe in holding back the influence of communism on the continent. Approximately 58,000 men were killed fighting in the Free French forces between 1940 and 1945.[66] World War II
World War II
victory[edit]

Allied Occupation Zones in Germany
Allied Occupation Zones in Germany
in 1946 after territorial annexations in the East

Further information: German Instrument of Surrender A point of strong disagreement between de Gaulle and the Big Three (Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill), was that the President of the Provisional Government of the French Republic
Provisional Government of the French Republic
(GPRF), established on 3 June 1944, was not recognized as the legitimate representative of France. Even though de Gaulle had been recognized as the leader of Free France
Free France
by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
back in 28 June 1940, his GPRF
GPRF
presidency had not resulted from democratic elections. However, two months after the liberation of Paris and one month after the new "unanimity government", the Big Three recognized the GPRF
GPRF
on 23 October 1944.[67][68] In his liberation of Paris speech, de Gaulle argued "It will not be enough that, with the help of our dear and admirable Allies, we have got rid of him [the Germans] from our home for us to be satisfied after what happened. We want to enter his territory as it should be, as victors", clearly showing his ambition that France
France
be considered one of the World War II
World War II
victors just like the Big Three. This perspective was not shared by the western Allies, as was demonstrated in the German Instrument of Surrender's First Act.[69] The French occupation zones in Germany and in West Berlin
Berlin
cemented this ambition, leading to some frustration on the part of other European nations, which became part of the deeper Western betrayal
Western betrayal
sentiment.[citation needed] This sentiment was felt by other European Allies, especially Poland, whose proposition that they be part of the occupation of Germany was rejected by the Soviets; the latter taking the view that they had liberated the Poles from the Nazis which thus put them under the influence of the USSR. Legacy[edit]

The Free French memorial on Lyle Hill, Greenock, overlooks Gourock, Scotland.

The Free French Memorial on Lyle Hill
Lyle Hill
in Greenock, in western Scotland, in the shape of the Cross of Lorraine
Cross of Lorraine
combined with an anchor, was raised by subscription as a memorial to sailors on the Free French Naval Forces
Free French Naval Forces
vessels that sailed from the Firth of Clyde to take part in the Battle of the Atlantic. The memorial is also associated, locally, with the memory of the French destroyer Maillé Brézé (1933) which sank at the Tail of the Bank.[70] To this day, General de Gaulle's Appeal of 18 June
Appeal of 18 June
1940 remains one of the most famous speeches in French history.[71][72] Free French[edit]

Dimitri Amilakhvari Georges Thierry d'Argenlieu Josephine Baker Georges Bergé Pierre Bertaux Georges Bidault Pierre Billotte Claude Hettier de Boislambert Pierre Bourgoin René Cassin Georges Catroux Pierre Clostermann Geoffroy Chodron de Courcel Ève Curie Georges Devillebichot André Dewavrin Félix Éboué Jean Gabin Charles de Gaulle Suzanne David Hall René Iché Joseph Kessel Marie Pierre Koenig Edith de La Chevalerie Xavier de La Chevalerie André Laguerre Pierre-Olivier Lapie Edgard de Larminat Eric Lavansch Philippe Leclerc
Philippe Leclerc
de Hauteclocque Paul Legentilhomme Martino Lopez Pierre Marienne Anna Marly Raoul Magrin-Vernerey Pierre Mendès-France Pierre Messmer Jean Moulin Émile Muselier Raphaël Onana Gaston Palewski René Pleven Raymonde Reimbert Gabriel Brunet de Sairigné Maurice Schumann Jacques Soustelle Tereska Torres Martin Valin Simone Weil

(More cited on French Resistance) French who joined after 1942[edit]

Antoine Béthouart Jean René Champion Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Henri Giraud Valéry Giscard d'Estaing Alphonse Juin Marcel Marceau François Mitterrand Jean Monnet Joseph de Goislard de Monsabert Jean de Lattre de Tassigny Jean Touzet du Vigier Rene Joyeuse

See also[edit]

World War II
World War II
portal France
France
portal

France
France
during the Second World War Free French Air Force Normandie-Niemen, free French squadron fighting on the Eastern Front with the USSR's Red Air Force Maquis (World War II) List of networks and movements of the French Resistance Chant des Partisans Military history of France
France
during World War II French colonial empire List of French possessions and colonies

Notes[edit]

^ London
London
was the seat of the government-in-exile in 1940–42, but Brazzaville
Brazzaville
was considered the symbolic capital of Free France
Free France
due to the declaration of the Brazzaville
Brazzaville
Manifesto there. The government of Free France
Free France
was based in Algiers
Algiers
in French Algeria
French Algeria
in 1942–44, then part of metropolitan France, from 1942 until the liberation of France in 1944, when it briefly moved back to London
London
for a few weeks from the start of the Normandy
Normandy
and Provence
Provence
landings before ending the exile by moving to Paris on 25 August 1944.

References[edit] Citations[edit]

^ Stacey 2007, p. 373. ^ La France
France
Libre et les Français Libres : éléments de définition Archived 5 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine. ^ Taylor, p.58 ^ a b c d Munholland 2007, p. 10. ^ Shlaim, Avi (July 1974). "Prelude to Downfall: The British Offer of Union to France, June 1940". Journal of Contemporary History. 3. 9 (3): 27–63. doi:10.1177/002200947400900302. JSTOR 260024.  ^ The Guardian, "A Mesmerising Oratory", 29 April 2007. ^ de Gaulle, Charles (28 April 2007). "The flame of French resistance". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 27 March 2010.  ^ a b Munholland 2007, p. 11. ^ Jackson, Julian (2001). France: The Dark Years, 1940–1944. Oxford University Press. pp. 31, 134–135. ISBN 0-19-820706-9.  ^ P. M. H. Bell, France
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and Britain 1900–1940: Entente & Estrangement, London, New York, 1996, p 249' ^ Axelrod & Kingston, p. 373. ^ bbm.org Archived 27 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved October 2012 ^ a b Pierre Goubert (20 November 1991). The Course of French History. Psychology Press. pp. 298–. ISBN 978-0-415-06671-6. Retrieved 6 March 2011.  ^ a b Axelrod & Kingston, p. 362. ^ a b c Hastings, Max, p.80 ^ a b c Hastings, Max, p.126 ^ Yapp, Peter, p.235, The Travellers' Dictionary of Quotation. Retrieved October 2012 ^ Jennings, Eric T. Free French Africa in World War II. pp. 66. ^ Bennett, p. 16. ^ History Learning Site. Retrieved October 2012 ^ Bennett, p. 13. ^ Bennett, pp. 13–18. ^ Hastings, Max, p.74 ^ "Paris liberation made 'whites only'". BBC News. 6 April 2009. Retrieved August 28, 2015.  ^ www.france-libre.net, Le site de la France-Libre, "Les origines des FNFL, par l'amiral Thierry d'Argenlieu" Archived 13 April 2016 at the Wayback Machine. (in French) ^ "The Cross of Lorraine
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Henri Giraud
and the Foundation of the French Committee of National Liberation," French History (1996) 10#12 pp 86–111 ^ Arthur L. Funk, "Negotiating the 'Deal with Darlan,'" Journal of Contemporary History (1973) 8#2 pp 81–117 JSTOR 259995 ^ Arthur L. Funk, The Politics of Torch (1974) ^ Extraits de l'entretien d'Annie Rey-Goldzeiguer [1, avec Christian Makarian et Dominique Simonnet, publié dans l'Express du 14 mars 2002 Archived 1 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine., on the LDH website (in French) ^ deRochemont, Richard (1942-08-24). "The French Underground". Life. p. 86. Retrieved 2011-11-20.  ^ Axelrod, Alan; Kingston, Jack A. (2007). Encyclopedia of World War II, Volume 1. Facts on File
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nouvelle?, Musée des deux guerres mondiales, Universités de Paris (University of Paris), 1984, p.95 ^ Talbot, C. Imlay; Duffy Toft, Monica. The Fog of Peace and War Planning: Military and Strategic Planning Under Uncertainty. Routledge, 2007. p. 227. ISBN 9781134210886.  ^ Sumner and Vauvillier 1998, p. 38 ^ [dead link] 1940–1944 : La France
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Libre et la France Combattante pt. 2 Archived 16 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine. (in French). Charles de Gaulle
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Libre et la France Combattante pt. 1 Archived 16 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine. (in French). Charles de Gaulle
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Excluded from the German Capitulation Signing by the Western Allies" Archived 29 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine.. Reims Academy. ^ Robert Jeffrey (November 6, 2014). Scotland's Cruel Sea: Heroism and Disaster off the Scottish Coast. Black & White Publishing. p. 21. ISBN 978-1-84502-887-9.  ^ "Sarkozy Marks Anniversary of General de Gaulle's BBC Broadcast". BBC. 17 June 2010. Retrieved 9 September 2017.  ^ Representations of the Second World War: Ideological Currents in French History (core.ac.uk)

Sources[edit]

Axelrod, Alan; Kingston, Jack A. (2007). Encyclopedia of World War II. 1. Facts On File. ISBN 9780816060221.  Bennett, G. H. (2011). The RAF's French Foreign Legion: De Gaulle, the British and the Re-emergence of French Airpower 1940-45. London; New York: Continuum. ISBN 9781441189783.  Hastings, Max, p. 125–126, All Hell Let Loose, The World at War 1939–45, Harper Press, London, 2011 Mollo, Andrew (1981). The Armed Forces of World War II. Crown. ISBN 0-517-54478-4. Munholland, Kim (2007) [1970]. Arms, Men and Governments: The War Policies of Canada, 1939–1945. Queens Printer for Canada.  Stacey, C.P. (2007) [2005]. Rock of Contention: Free French and Americans at War in New Caledonia, 1940–1945. Berghahn Books. ISBN 978-1-84545-300-8.  Sumner, Ian; Vauvillier, François (1998). The French Army
French Army
1939–45: Free French, Fighting French and the Army of Liberation. Men-at-arms Series No. 318. Volume 2. London: Osprey. ISBN 1855327074.  Taylor, A. J. P. The Second World War
Second World War
– an Illustrated History, Hamish Hamilton, London, 1975.

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Forces Françaises Libres.

Composition and situation of the Free French Force in combat Bibliography about 1st Free French Division FFF fighting units (France-Libre.net) Flags and Ensigns of Free France Free French Black troops France-Libre.net (Free French Forces foundation) Fights of the population in Gers in the regular army from Nov.8, 1942 to Aug.31, 1944 (1992– O.N.A.C.- S.D. GERS translated in English)

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