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The BBC's Peter Gould
"Churchill described de Gaulle as a vain, even malignant man"
 real 28k

The BBC's Sanchia Berg reports
"It was the American President who fed Churchill's doubts"
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Wednesday, 5 January, 2000, 09:58 GMT
Churchill 'wanted to abandon de Gaulle'

Churchill: De Gaulle was "absorbed in his own personal career"

Winston Churchill attempted to have General Charles de Gaulle removed as leader of the Free French forces, wartime records released to the public have revealed.

The papers released to the Public Record Office show that American President Franklin D Roosevelt shared the British prime minister's concern about de Gaulle.

But the British war cabinet rebuffed Churchill's attempts to sever links with de Gaulle in the later stages of World War II.

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The documents show that Churchill believed de Gaulle to be a vain and even malignant man with fascist tendencies, who hated England.

He wanted to put General Henri Giraud in command of Free French forces.

And the records show that as the war progressed, Churchill's sentiments were increasingly shared by President Roosevelt.

The US president accused de Gaulle of fomenting racial discord and said a speech by the French leader had been described as "like pages of out of Mein Kampf".

The tensions between Churchill and the war cabinet over de Gaulle are underlined by telegrams between London and Washington, where the prime minister was holding talks with Roosevelt in 1943.

They show that Harold Macmillan, then minister for the Middle East, shared Churchill's unease about de Gaulle.

'No confidence'

Twenty years later, when Macmillan had become prime minister, de Gaulle as French president blocked British membership of the European Community.

The 1943 telegrams show London and Washington's concern that de Gaulle was prepared to deal with Russia or even Germany as he "no longer had confidence in the Anglo-Saxons".

There was also concern that de Gaulle was requiring Free French groups to sign an oath of allegiance to him as "the sole legitimate leader".

But thoughts of abandoning de Gaulle were made difficult because of the agreement Churchill had signed with him in 1940 when Britain faced invasion and needed French resistance help.

However, Churchill told Cabinet colleagues in 1943 that he felt de Gaulle was "absorbed in his own personal career".

'Removal would be betrayal'

He said: "He hates England and has left a trail of Anglophobia behind him everywhere."

But the war cabinet advised Churchill not to abandon de Gaulle, a move which would have risked the support of 80,000 French troops fighting under de Gaulle's leadership.

The war cabinet warned that the resistance movement would consider the removal of de Gaulle as a betrayal, with an inevitable swing towards Russia.

And it doubted that de Gaulle was demanding a loyalty oath from troops.

In the summer of 1943, de Gaulle, who had escaped to London in 1940 after the fall of France, became undisputed leader of the Free French, ending Churchill's attempts to have him removed.

De Gaulle continued to lead the French resistance movement from Britain until France was liberated in 1944.

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See also:
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