Moments That Made History
The flame of French resistance must not and shall not die.
Charles de Gaulle
Delivered 18 June 1940, this speech was delivered by General Charles de Gaulle after he fled to London following the German invasion of France. In it de Gaulle exhorted French people to continue the fight against Germany. This is one of the most important speeches in all of French history. Over the next three years de Gaulle became a symbol of French resistance and worked to persuade the British, the American and French resistance groups to accept him as the head of the Free French forces.
Biography in brief: Born 22 November 1890 in Lille France, de Gaulle was a career soldier. He graduated from the Military Academy St Cyr in 1912 and joined an infantry regiment. His controversial military ideas were published in The Army of the Future in 1934. Shortly after arriving in Britain in 1940 he made his appeal of 18 June. He was elected unanimously as head of the French Government in 1945 and as President in 1958, 1965 and 1968. He died 9 November 1970 in France.
“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 aeroplanes, the tactics of the Germans which are causing us to retreat. It was the tanks, the aeroplanes, 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.
“This war is not limited to the unfortunate territory of our country. This war is not over as a result of the Battle of France. This war is a worldwide war. All the mistakes, all the delays, all the suffering, do not alter the fact that there are, in the world, all the means necessary to crush our enemies one day. Vanquished today by mechanical force, in the future we will be able to overcome by a superior mechanical force. The fate of the world depends on it.
“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.”