Free France

Article

December 3, 2021

Free France (French France Libre) was a state unit existing during World War II, including the French territories that remained on the side of the Allies after the surrender of France in June 1940. Free France also acted as the French government in exile. The Free France Movement was founded in London in June 1940 by General Charles de Gaulle, who subsequently led it. Its armed forces were the Forces Françaises Libres (FFL), which continued to fight on the side of the Allies after the French surrender. The movement also organized and supported the resistance in occupied France.

Origin

Shortly after the German offensive in early May 1940, on May 25, the current Colonel Charles de Gaulle was given command of the tank division and promoted to brigadier general. The French army failed to face the onslaught of the Wehrmacht, and on June 17, Marshal Philippe Pétain signed the surrender of France. De Gaulle left for England, where he later began to build the Free France movement. He promoted them, among other things, on the radio and eventually met with success. In two months, the FFL already had 7,000 members. On June 28, he was recognized by the British government as the leader of the Free French. On September 24, 1941, the so-called National Committee fighting France was established, which was gradually recognized by the governments of Great Britain, the USSR, Poland, Belgium and Czech officials as the French government in exile. On June 3, 1943, he was transformed into the French Committee for National Liberation, in which de Gaulle and Henri Honoré Giraud originally shared the chairman. Composition. Many members of the FFL were not of French descent. A total of 65% were conscripts from West Africa, mostly from Senegal. Many members were also from Morocco, Algeria and Tahiti. For example, the 2nd Panzer Division had 25% black soldiers.

Fight for colony control

After the fall of France in 1940, the vast majority of French overseas territories remained loyal to the newly formed government of Vichy France. Only the French states in India, French Equatorial Africa and French Polynesia joined the FFL, and only gradually during the war did the FFL succeed in gaining control of other colonies. With the addition of the French African colonies to the FFL came a large number of African colonial military units. The first armed conflict between the Vichists and the FFL occurred in September 1940 during an unsuccessful attempt to conquer Dakar. In November of that year, the FFL managed to conquer Gabon, the only part of French Equatorial Africa that joined the government in Vichy. In mid-1941, the Vichy Army was defeated in the Levant. The 11th Czechoslovak Infantry Battalion - East - also took part in this campaign (Operation Exporter). In North Africa, FFL troops took part in the fighting in Libya and Egypt against Erwin Rommel and his Afrika Korps. After the British invasion, the government of Free France was established over Madagascar. In addition, the Allied landings in North Africa brought the liberation of French West Africa and Algeria. After these successes, the inhabitants of Guadeloupe, Martinique and French Guiana also began to join the FFL in 1943. In 1944, fighting for the colonies subsided as a result of the Allied landings in Normandy and the end of the Vichy regime after the liberation of France.

End of the war

By 1944, the FFL had 560,000 members. That number rose to a million by the end of the year. The FFL fought in Alsace, the Alps and Brittany. From 1945 until the end of the war in Europe, the FFL consisted of 1,300,000 members, and included seven infantry divisions and three combat tank divisions, making the FFL the fifth largest Allied army after

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