Hopkins Papers: Telegram

The British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs ( Eden ) to Prime Minister Churchill 1

Telescope No. 87. Following personal for Prime Minister from Foreign Secretary:

I sent for General de Gaulle this morning. Sir A. Cadogan was also present. I told him I had a message for him from you, and exacted a promise of absolute secrecy. I said you had gone to North Africa for military conversations with important American personages. He said he had not heard of your departure though he had received report that principal American personages had been recognized at Accra.

I then gave him your message to read.2 He read quietly until coming to reference to Bergeret which elicited angry exclamation. When he had finished, he expressed no pleasure. He had wanted to meet Giraud after Darlan’s assassination, but Giraud had not agreed. Time was not now opportune and he was reluctant to meet Giraud under auspices of allies who might press him to compromise. I urged advantage of meeting, both to the General himself, the cause of France and that of Allies.

You had obviously been at pains to arrange it. We stood loyally by our engagements to him, and a meeting, the sooner the better, was in the interests of all. General de Gaulle said our interests and his might not be the same. We had never understood that Fighting French movement was the real force in France today. There were only two alternatives—Fighting French and Vichy. Giraud, who tried to balance between them was not too popular at all. We made a mistake in going into North Africa without de Gaulle. We were in difficulties, and asked him to come and help. We contested all these statements and asked him whether he still wished to come to terms with Giraud. He said he would meet Giraud next week at Fort Lamy, [Page 815] alone, and he hoped you would press this on Giraud. Right course for latter was to rally the Fighting French. He could then become member of National Committee and be appointed to command forces.

General de Gaulle said he would be doing a disservice to France by compromising with Giraud and the Vichy men surrounding him, at the behest of Allies. I retorted that attitude of Giraud to Vichy was just one of the matters that could be discussed with him and we emphasized that our message proposed direct talks between the two generals. I could not believe he had refused to play his part. Moreover, this was an opportunity for him to explain his position to the President, which he had been contemplating. General de Gaulle said this was a different proposition. If the President wished to see him he could always summon him to America.

I said he should deeply regret a refusal by him to the Allies and cooperate with them for bringing the war to a victorious conclusion. He argued that if victory was won for Vichy elements, France would not have won much. Most he would offer was to reflect upon the matter and see me again this afternoon. At five o’clock he appeared with the following message to you:

Message begins: The message from you which was delivered to me today by Mr. Eden was somewhat unexpected. As you know, I have telegraphed several times to General Giraud since Christmas, urging him to meet me. Although the situation has moved since Christmas in the direction which now renders an understanding less easy, I would gladly meet General Giraud in French territory anywhere he likes as soon as he wishes, with all necessary secrecy. I am now sending him an offer to maintain direct liaison between us. I value most highly the sentiments which inspire your message and thank you very heartily for them. Allow me to say, however, that the atmosphere of an exalted Allied forum around the Giraud–de Gaulle conversations as well as the suddenness with which those conversations have been proposed to me, do not seem to me to be the best for an effective agreement. Simple and direct talks between the French leaders would, in my opinion, be the best design to bring about a useful arrangement. I should like to assure you once again that the French National Committee in no way disassociates the higher interests of France from that of the world and of the United Nations. It is for this reason that, in my view, a rapid and complete rehabilitation of the internal situation of North Africa is necessary under conditions consistent with the maximum war effort and the success of our plans. I am telegraphing again to General Giraud to repeat once more my proposal for an immediate meeting—a proposal to which I have so far received no precise reply from him.3 Message ends.

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I once more pointed out that your proposal provided for “simple and direct talks between French leaders.” He reverted to his fear of “pressure”. He still hoped for a meeting with Giraud on his conditions, but I held out no hope of this and said results of his decision must be most unfortunate. He was throwing away an opportunity of an arrangement with Giraud with full support of two principal allied leaders, which would have greatly helped our war effort. Nothing, however, would move him and I have no alternative but to forward his message.

  1. There is no indication of when the source text was passed to Roosevelt or Hopkins, but it was probably given to them before or at the Roosevelt–Churchill luncheon meeting of January 18; see the editorial note, ante, p. 626.
  2. For text of Churchill’s message of January 16 to de Gaulle, see de Gaulle, Documents, p. 126.
  3. For text of de Gaulle’s January 17 telegram to Giraud, see de Gaulle, Documents, p. 127. When Macmillan and Murphy delivered the message to Giraud on the afternoon of January 20, they apparently asked that the reply to de Gaulle be postponed.