CHARLES de GAULLE Charles de Gaulle was a very influential player in the Second World War. When the war started, he was a colonel in the French military. But when he learned that Field Marshall Pétain, the new prime minister, was planning an armistice with Nazi Germany, de Gaulle rebelled against the new French government and started the Free French Forces. He and his forces fled to Britain, provided with secret funds from the ex-prime minister.
When in Britain, de Gaulle gave several speeches over the BBC radio, urging the French to stay true to their values, resist the occupation of France and fight against the Vichy Regime (the new French government allied with Nazi Germany.) These treasonous speeches resulted in two court-marshals against de Gaulle: the first sentencing four years in jail, the second calling for the death penalty. With the help of British supporters, de Gaulle escaped these sentences by moving to Berkhamstead and began organizing the Free French Forces.
In May 1942, de Gaulle moved his headquarters to Algiers, where he became the chairman of the French Committee of National Liberation. The Free French Forces became a clear authority during the liberation of France. Before Paris’s liberation, de Gaulle flew to France and gave an historic speech on citizens’ roles in liberating their country of France. He then returned to his office at the War Ministry and established the continuity of the Third Republic, denying the Vichy Regime altogether. De Gaulle created a force, called the French First Army, joining his Free French with French troops from North Africa. This force helped liberate almost a third of France (making France rejoin the Allies), captured territory in Germany (allowing them to participate in signing the German Surrender), and created a French zone of occupation in Germany.
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