Charles de Gaulle
THE SPEECHES OF GENERAL DE GAULLE pp. 10-11..
In the momentary disintegration of the French armed forces following the capitulation, one incident, which took place on July 3rd, was particularly tragic. You will understand that I refer to the frightful shelling at Oran.
I shall speak quite frankly on this subject, for the present drama is one in which the future of each country is at stake, and it is therefore imperative that men of feeling should have the courage to face facts and speak their minds. Let me, then, say here and now that there is not a single Frenchman who did not learn with grief and anger that certain vessels of the French Fleet had been sunk by our Allies. This grief and anger come from the innermost depths of our being.
We have no reason to dissemble our feelings and, personally, I am prepared to express them openly. I therefore ask the British to spare us, as well as themselves, any portrayal of this hateful tragedy as a direct naval success. To consider it as such would be both unjust and out of place.
In reality, the ships stationed at Oran were not in a fit state to fight. They were lying at their moorings, and could neither manoeuvre nor disperse. For a fortnight, their officers and crews had undergone the most terrible moral ordeal. They allowed the British ships to fire the first salvoes, which, as everyone knows, are of decisive importance at such a range at sea. Their destruction was not the outcome of a glorious battle. As a French soldier, I do not hesitate to say this to our British Allies, especially as I am second to none in my admiration for their Navy. This being said, let me address a word to my compatriots, asking them to consider the whole affair fundamentally from the one point of view that matters in the end, that is to say, the point of view of
ultimate victory and the deliverance of our country. By virtue of an agreement contrary to all honour, the Government then established in Bordeaux agreed to place our ships at the mercy of the enemy, There cannot be the slightest doubt that, on principle and of necessity, the enemy would have used them either against Britain or against our own Empire. I therefore have no hesitation in saying that they are better destroyed.
I prefer to know that even the Dunkerque—our dear, magnificent, powerful Dunkerque—is stranded off Mers-el-Kebir, rather than learn one day that she has been manned by Germans and used to shell British ports, or perhaps Algiers, Casablanca, or Dakar.
By first bringing about this fratricidal bombardment, and then trying to turn the anger of the French against their betrayed Allies, the Government which was set up in Bordeaux is merely running true to form—the form of the slave.
By exploiting the incident to arouse ill-feeling between the French and the British, the enemy is likewise running true to form—the form of the conqueror.
By viewing the whole tragedy in its true light—by which Imean recognizing it as something hateful and deplorable— but, at the same time, doing everything possible to prevent it resulting in moral strife between French and British, all men of foresight on both sides of the Channel are also running true to form—the form of the patriot.
All serious-minded Englishmen must know that victory could never be achieved if the sympathies of France were enlisted under the banner of the enemy.
No Frenchman worthy of the name can for a moment doubt that a British defeat would seal for ever his country's bondage.
Come what may, even if for a time one of them is bowed under the yoke of the common foe, our two peoples—our two great peoples—are still linked together. Either they will both succumb, or they will triumph side by side.
As for Frenchmen who are still free to act in accordance with the honour and interests of France, I may say on their behalf that, once and for all, they have taken this inflexible resolve: to fight on to the finish.