Free French Forces

On 17th June, 1940, General Charles De Gaulle broadcast an appeal on BBC radio for French men and women to join him and the British in the fight against Nazi Germany. By the end of July only 7,000 people had volunteered to join the Free French forces.

The attacks by the Royal Air Force on the French Navy at Mers-el-Kebir and Dakar caused bitterness in France and did not encourage former members of the French Army to escape to Britain.

French colonial territories began to support Charles De Gaulle. This included Chad, French Equatorial Africa, French Indochina and French territories in India, New Caledonia and the New Hebrides.

Free French forces took part in fighting in Egypt, Syria, Eritrea and Ethiopia. General Marie-Pierre Koenig and his Free French unit did particularly well against General Erwin Rommel at Bir Hacheim in June 1942.

The Free French Navy (FNLF) which had fifty ships and some 3,600 men operated as an auxiliary force to the Royal Navy during the war.

The French Resistance gradually grew in strength. General Charles De Gaulle was keen to unite the different groups under his leadership. Jean Moulin, who had spent time in London with De Gaulle, was sent back to France and was given the task of uniting the various groups into one organization.

Moulin arranged meetings with people such as Henry Frenay (Combat), Emmanuel d'Astier (Liberation-sud), Jean-Pierre Lévy (Francs-Tireur), Pierre Villon (Front National), Daniel Mayer and Pierre Brossolette (Comité d'Action Socialiste), Charles Tillon and Pierre Fabien (Frances-Tireurs Partisans) and Charles Delestraint (Armée Secrete). After much discussion Moulin persuaded the eight major resistance groups to form the Conseil National de la Resistance (CNR) and got their agreement to join the Free French forces during the liberation of France.

After the D-day landings the Free French forces numbered over 400,000 men and women. Of those, 230,000 were based in Algiers and could not take part in the liberation of France.