Churchill was ready to arrest De Gaulle: archives

2nd January 2006, Comments 0 comments

LONDON, Jan 1 (AFP) - Britain's wartime prime minister Winston Churchill was prepared to have French resistance leader General Charles de Gaulle arrested if he tried to leave Britain, new documents released from British archives showed Sunday.

LONDON, Jan 1 (AFP) - Britain's wartime prime minister Winston Churchill was prepared to have French resistance leader General Charles de Gaulle arrested if he tried to leave Britain, new documents released from British archives showed Sunday.

The animosity between the pair, both revered in their homelands as heroes of the Second World War, is revealed in the first detailed records of British wartime Cabinet meetings to be made public.

Describing the French resistance leader as having "insensate ambition", Churchill also said De Gaulle was a barrier to "trustworthy" relations between the two countries.

In March 1943 when his request to visit Free French troops was turned down, the general, who had fled to Britain in 1940 after the German invasion, complained that he was being treated as a prisoner of war.

Churchill's response was that the Frenchman must be told "bluntly" to do as he was told and must be kept in the country.

"And arrest him if he tries to leave, eg by Fr(ench) destroyer. Security measures should be laid on to prevent that," Churchill said, according to notes taken by Deputy Cabinet Secretary Sir Norman Brook.

The British leader feared that De Gaulle's requested visit would jeopardise ongoing discussions between the United States and its favoured General Giraud, De Gaulle's rival.

However future Labour prime minister Clement Attlee warned against trusting US judgment on Giraud.

"Don't pin all hopes on (Giraud) as tho' he was v good. Remember too that the name 'de G' stands throughout France as the spirit of resistance: the man who never gave up etc ... US views v unreliable, they know nothing about France," Brook's notes read.

By April 1945, Churchill judged that there was "no hope of trustworthy relations with France until we are rid of de Gaulle".

However that year De Gaulle returned to a hero's welcome in Paris and was given the presidency of the provisional government.

The general would go on to repeatedly block Britain's entry into the European Economic Community.

Though he didn't trust De Gaulle, Churchill's views on Stalin were more positive, according to the released files.

Having met the Russian leader in Moscow, he told Cabinet in August 1942 that Stalin was a "large man: great sagacity".

Dating from 1942 to 1945, the documents can be viewed in full at the National Archives in Kew, south-west London.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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