The Vichy Regime, 1940-44

The Vichy Regime, 1940-44

The Vichy Regime, 1940-44

The Vichy Regime, 1940-44

Excerpt

In the early evening of Wednesday, 12th June, 1940, a general officer in service dress was led by two door-keepers from the Élysée to the drawing-room of the Château of Cangé on the Cher, where the President of the Republic had taken refuge before the enemy advance. Twenty-three ministers of Paul Reynaud's Government were gathered about the Head of the State. Weygand, the Commander-in-Chief, had come to inform the Council that an armistice was necessary.

Appointed Commander-in-Chief of the French Armies on the 19th May, 1940, Weygand, on his arrival at the Grand Quartier Général, had had to face a military situation which had already become desperate. After nine months of "phoney war", in which operations had remained stagnant, only ten days had elapsed since the beginning of the German offensive on the 10th May, 1940. The front had been pierced in two places, in Belgium near Namur, and in France near Sedan. On the 25th May, at a War Council held under the chairmanship of the President, Albert Lebrun, General Weygand, without concealing the gravity of the situation, had still been talking of fighting to the end in order to defend the honour of the flag. But successive reverses on the Meuse and in the Nord, the British retreat in Flanders and the capitulation of the Belgian army on the 28th May soon dashed all hopes of re-establishing a junction between the armies of the Nord, surrounded about Dunkirk, and the rest of the army. In a memorandum, dated 29th May, 1940, Weygand informed the Government of the increasing gravity of the situation.

The battle of the Somme, the ultimate effort to contain the advance of the Wehrmacht with forces only a third the size of the enemy's, began on the 5th June, 1940: it was lost on the 10th. On that date, Weygand informed the Government in writing that the decisive disruption of the French front was imminent.

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