740.0011 European War 1939/26915/7: Telegram

The Deputy Ambassador in France (Biddle) to the Secretary of State

20. Your No. 3, June 17, 5 p.m. to Consul and my flash via Press Wireless that message had been delivered to Admiral Darlan. I called the Minister for Foreign Affairs from the Council of Ministers which is now meeting to consider this and other questions of grave importance. He said that Darlan had already placed your message before the Government. He wished to assure me in the name of the Government in the most solemn manner that the French Fleet would never be surrendered to the enemy: “La question ne se pose pas.” He must tell me though that the last sentence of the message had “deeply pained” the French Government (I believe, however, that in spite of this natural feeling the effect thereof was highly salutary at this juncture).

Baudouin added that he could not, however, say that the French Fleet would join the British Fleet; it might be sent overseas or it might be sunk. That question is now before the Council of Ministers. I urged with all possible emphasis that the fleet be moved to safety rather than destroyed.

No reply has yet been received to the request for armistice terms. He said that he understood from the Spanish Government that the answer “might be forthcoming tomorrow”.

The Germans are now in the outskirts of Lyons. Herriot8 tells me the city was bombed last night. The atmosphere of tension and anxiety in Bordeaux is naturally increasing.

  1. Edouard Herriot, President of the French Chamber of Deputies.