18 June 2020
DeGaulle’s Appeal of 18 June 80th Anniversary
Issued on: 2020-06-18
Printing: Offset lithography
Face value: 350 F – CFP franc
Print run: 25,000
The Appeal of 18 June (L’Appel du 18 juin) was the first speech made by Charles de Gaulle after his arrival in London in 1940 following the Fall of France. Broadcast to France by the radio services of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), it is often considered to have represented the origin of the French Resistance in World War II. It is regarded as one of the most important speeches in French history. In spite of its significance in French collective memory, historians have shown that the appeal was heard only by a minority of French people. De Gaulle’s 22 June 1940 speech was more widely heard.
De Gaulle had recently been promoted to the rank of Brigadier General and named as Under-Secretary of State for National Defence and War by Prime Minister Paul Reynaud during the German invasion of France. Reynaud resigned after his proposal for a Franco-British Union was rejected by his cabinet and Marshal Philippe Pétain, a hero of World War I, became the new Prime Minister, pledging to sign an armistice with Nazi Germany. De Gaulle opposed any such action and facing imminent arrest, fled France on 17 June. Other leading politicians, including Georges Mandel, Léon Blum, Pierre Mendès France, Jean Zay and Édouard Daladier (and separately Reynaud), were arrested while travelling to continue the war from North Africa.
De Gaulle obtained special permission from Winston Churchill to broadcast a speech on 18 June via BBC Radio from Broadcasting House over France, despite the British Cabinet’s objections that such a broadcast could provoke the Pétain government into a closer allegiance with Germany. In his speech, de Gaulle reminded the French people that the British Empire and the United States of America would support them militarily and economically in an effort to retake France from the Germans.
The BBC did not record the speech, and few actually heard it. Another speech, which was recorded and heard by more people, was given by de Gaulle four days later. There is a record, however, of the manuscript of the speech of 18 June, which has been found in the archives of the Swiss intelligence agencies who published the text for their own uses on 19 June. The manuscript of the speech, as well as the recording of the 22 June speech, has been classed on 18 June 2005, by the UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme.
On 18 June 1940, at 19:00 (GMT), de Gaulle’s voice was broadcast nationwide, saying in French (author. translation):
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 world 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. Tomorrow, as today, I will speak on the radio from London.
Although de Gaulle’s speech on 18 June is among the most famous in French history, few French listeners heard it that day. It was broadcast on the BBC, a British radio station, practically unannounced and was delivered by an obscure brigadier general who had only recently been appointed as a junior minister. Consequently, of the 10,000 French citizens in Britain, only 300 volunteered. Of the more than 100,000 soldiers temporarily on British soil, most of them recently evacuated from Norway or Dunkirk, only 7,000 stayed on to join de Gaulle. The rest returned to France and were quickly made prisoners of war. However, de Gaulle’s speech was undeniably influential and provided motivation for the people of France and for the oppressed of the rest of Europe.
The themes of the speech would be reused throughout the war to inspire the French people to resist German occupation. Four days later, de Gaulle delivered a speech that largely reiterated the points made in his 18 June speech, and the second speech was heard by a larger audience in France. The content of the 22 June speech is often confused for that of 18 June. In addition, in early August a poster written by de Gaulle would be distributed widely in London and would become known as L’affiche de Londres (The London Poster). Variations of this poster would be produced and displayed in Africa, South America and France itself over the course of the war.
The 70th anniversary of the speech was marked in 2010 by the issuing of a postage stamp (designed by Georges Mathieu) and a €2 commemorative coin.
De Gaulle’s famous quote: “La France a perdu une bataille! Mais la France n’a pas perdu la guerre” (“France has lost a battle, but France has not lost the war”) is often associated with the Appeal of 18 June, but actually stems from a motivational poster featuring De Gaulle, A Tous Les Français, which was distributed all over London on 3 August 1940.