The things you learn

I am following a Twitter feed from the UK National Archives. The feed is literally a blow-by-blow account of the British War Cabinet meetings during 1940.

At this point in June 1940, we’ve been through the humiliation of Dunkirk, and we’re about to face the Battle of Britain. However, while the British were licking wounds and making snarling noises in the direction of Germany, France was fighting for her life.

In the Cabinet papers today, I learn that there was a proposal to make “an indissoluble union and unyielding resolution in defence of liberty and freedom”. The Declaration of Union would be put to the French government the next day.

The whole idea was as far-reaching as it was startling. While there would be no single currency, citizens of each country would become citizens of the other, and there would be a so-called Super War Cabinet which would direct the progress of the war for the two countries. The man behind this whole idea is none other than General de Gaulle – the very one who about thirty years later would categorically deny the UK entry to the Common Market!

Be that as it may, if things had worked out, by the end of June 1940, there would have been a Franco-British union. Sadly, no sooner than the British War Cabinet agreed to proceed with the idea, word came through that the French High Council was meeting to decide whether further resistance against the German invaders was possible. History tells us that the French surrendered to occupation shortly after, and Great Britain was left alone to continue the fight.

How different things might have been had the proposed union been considered earlier in the year, or even before the outbreak war in 1939.

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