18 June 1940
The world is struck by the power of that which is perhaps the most famous Appeal of all time. This is of course Charles de Gaule's address to the French, broadcast in London by the BBC.
In his appeal, de Gaulle lays the fondation for Free France, and the Free French Forces' fight against German occupation and Nazi tyranny. These four sheets of paper are alas the only extant documents from this historical event: the appeal was neither taped nor filmed. Philippe de Gaulle inherited the sheets from his late mother, Yvonne de Gaulle, deceased in September 1978.
In London, the eve of the broadcast, De Gaulle solicited Winston Churchill's advice. Meanwhile Philippe Pétain, the soon-to-be chief of the French Vichy state, was preparing to sign an armistice. That night, in a provisional office at Seymour Place (now Curzon Street), on the forth floor, De Gaulle handwrote his Appeal.
The next day, Élisabeth de Miribel, his volunteer secretary, began the arduous task of typing the heavily crossed-out text. She later remembered: ‘I had the vague feeling that I was participating in an exceptional moment’ The appeal was entrusted to the General Spears who showed it to the Prime Minister. De Gaulle’s then spoke his legendary words that night, imploring the French to stay strong.
The manuscript of the Appeal is authenticated and bears De Gaulle’s signature on the verso of the fourth sheet (it was added later). The document is also accompanied by a calling card singed by his wife, Yvonne de Gaulle.
© Amiral Philippe de Gaulle / Bridgeman Giraudon
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