French Exile Armies 1940–44

  • Anthony Clayton


The armed forces in exile of France, after the French collapse in June 1940 in which the army was traumatized by the speed and totality of its defeat, pose very special problems of understanding. To follow the confused motives, occasionally even leading to confrontation between Frenchmen in exile of one faction and Frenchmen in exile of another, it is necessary to analyse what precisely had happened in June 1940, what exactly General Charles de Gaulle came, more quickly than has sometimes been appreciated, to stand for, and on what the supporters of Vichy France, admittedly composed of many different strands, could, at least initially, agree. These different views, or at least strands within them, were to lead to two quite different groupings of armed forces in exile. Their differences were so great that even in 1944 when the armies of both perceptions had actually and with massive outside help landed in France to liberate their country, formations could not agree on unification, and continued to fight their separate battles even when in close proximity.


Foreign Legion Armoured Unit Reserve Unit French Troop French Officer 
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  1. Jean Lacouture, (trans. P. O’Brian), De Gaulle: The Rebel 1890–1944 (London, Collins Harvill, 1990), pp. xviii, xix.Google Scholar
  2. Harold Macmillan, The Blast of war 1939–1945 (London: Macmillan – new Palgrave Macmillan 1967), p. 324.Google Scholar
  3. Bernard Destremau, Weygand (Paris, Perrin, 1989), pp. 746–9. After trial by the High Court of Justice and further subsequent enquiries, Weygand was eventually acquitted of all charges of collaboration with the Germans.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2005

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  • Anthony Clayton

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