No. 197 NAI DFA Paris Embassy 19/34A

Confidential report from Seán Murphy to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(Copy)

Ascain, 21 June 1940

There can be little doubt that the decision of the Pétain1 Government to seek the end of hostilities was dictated almost exclusively by military consideration. This emerges both from the speech of M. Baudoin, Minister for Foreign Affairs,2 delivered over the radio on the same day as Maréchal Pétain forespoke (17th June), from the radio comment which since then has continuously laid stress on the military weakness of France and more particularly from Maréchal Pétain's second radio speech of the 20th. This latter speech can only be interpreted as being an effort to justify the decision taken and was probably delivered because of the existence of opposition to the decision reached. The importance attributed to military considerations alone in reaching this decision is also proved both by the composition of the Cabinet which only includes 7 politicians proper out of a total ministry of 16 in which there are 5 ministers whose career has been exclusively military (Maréchal Pétain, Général Weygand, General Colson, Admiral Darlan, Général Pugeol; it is also to be observed incidentally that national defence and war have for the first time for years been made two distinctive portfolios). The composition of the delegation which is to receive the terms is also predominantly military (3 including the President out of 4 members).3

It was evident towards the end of last week that a way out of the situation by a cessation of resistance was being envisaged. The communiqué of the Cabinet meetings held towards the end of the week made mention of a new factor in connection with continued resistance, namely the nature of the American reply to Mr. Reynaud's appeal. Hitherto resistance had not been made as far as the public was informed dependent on any other consideration than the will of France to oppose the enemy to the end. The communiqué in question implied that if the American reply were considered unsatisfactory (apparently if the reply did not involve the entry of America to the war) France might be compelled to give up the struggle. At that stage there would seem to have been two main solutions ? that which has been adopted or, and this would have been more consistent with what M. Reynaud had continuously said in his public pronouncements, the giving of authority to the military leaders to make the best arrangements they could in France by capitulation or otherwise combined with the departure of the Government from France either to North Africa as M. Reynaud had suggested in his first message to President Roosevelt on the 10th June or to some other place such as London. This latter solution would have been of the same kind as that taken by the Dutch Government and would have had the same objective, namely to preserve the French Empire for the conduct of the war and to preserve the fleet. Maréchal Pétain's decision would seem to have been based on the assumption that his offer coupled with the veneration attributed to his personality would have led to an immediate cessation of hostilities. It is probably subject to criticism in political quarters on the ground that the subsequent developments of the situation mean that the primary object which he could have effected has not been attained (as it seems likely that the hostilities will practically have been brought to an end by the occupation of the greater portion of France before agreement on the German terms is reached) and that it probably will involve the surrender of at least a portion of the French Empire and of the French fleet. It is not yet clear what conditions the Government will regard as acceptable. All Maréchal Pétain himself said was that he was asking the adversary 'whether he is prepared to seek with me as between soldiers after the struggle and in honour the means of putting an end to hostilities'. Maréchal Pétain's speech was, according to the radio, 'commented' that evening by M. Paul Baudoin, Minister for Foreign Affairs. In his speech, the latter said, inter alia, referring to Maréchal Pétain's reference to a cessation of hostilities in honour that 'the country is not disposed to accept dishonourable conditions, to abandon the spiritual liberty of her people, to betray the soul of France'. M. Peyrouton, Resident General in Tunis in a broadcast speech on Tuesday evening said inter alia 'honour remains, the Empire also: 60 million men, immense territory which our civilised genius brought out of long servitude'. It is difficult to see how the integrity of the Empire can be expected to continue considering that whether hostilities end or not before all France is occupied France will in effect have been decisively beaten in the war.

1 Marshal Philippe Pétain (1856-1951), Vichy France Chief of State (1940-4).

2 Paul Baudoin (1894-1964), French Minister for Foreign Affairs (June to October 1940) who negotiated France?s armistice with Germany.

3 On 22 June 1940 a delegation led by Marshal Pétain signed an armistice with Germany at Compi?e.


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