Charles De Gaulle knew that he was out of step with the rest of the French Government and had made a last minute move to London. Following a meeting with Churchill he was permitted to use the BBC to broadcast to France. Although the terms of his defiance were later to become famous, at the time his speech was heard by only a few. It was by no means inevitable at the time that it should be De Gaulle who should represent the ‘Free French’. Nor did the speech contain the words “France has lost the battle, but France has not lost the war” – this famous phrase was to appear on the subsequent posters:
The leaders who have been at the head of the French army for many years have formed a government. This government, claiming the defeat of the French army, has met with the enemy in order to put an end to the combat.
It is true that we were overwhelmed by the strength of technical power, both on land and in the air, of the enemy. More than their numbers, it has been the tanks, the planes and the tactics of the Germans that have forced our retreat. It has been the tanks, the planes and the tactics of the Germans that took our leaders by surprise and led them to where they are today. But has the last word been said? Should we give up hope? Is the defeat definitive? No! Believe me, I am speaking knowingly and I say to you that nothing is lost for France. The same means that defeated us can one day help us achieve victory.
For France is not alone! Not alone! Not alone! She has a vast empire behind her. She can make a blockade with the British Empire that rules the seas. Like England, she can utilize without limits the immense industrial capabilities of the United States.
This war is not limited to the unfortunate territory of our own country. This war will not be decided by the battle of France. This is a world war. All the errors, all the delays, all the suffering cannot change the fact that there are, in this universe, all the means necessary to one day crush our enemies. Struck down as we are today by technical forces, we will, in the future, conquer our enemy by an even superior technical force. The fate of the world depends on it.
I, General de Gaulle, from London, call upon the French officers and soldiers who are now on British territory or who would come here, with or without their weapons; I call upon engineers and specialized workers from the weapons industry who are on British territory or who would come here, to please contact me.
Whatever happens, the flame of French resistance must not be extinguished and will not be extinguished.