Free French Forces

Free French Forces

The Free French Forces were individuals or military units who joined "Free France", the resistance organization founded by Charles de Gaulle in 1940 in London in order to continue the struggle against the Axis powers.

De Gaulle, a French government minister who rejected the armistice concluded by Maréchal Philippe Pétain and who had escaped to Britain, exhorted the French to resist in his BBC broadcast "Appeal of 18 June" (Appel du 18 juin), which had a stirring effect on morale throughout France and its colonies, though initially relatively few French forces responded to De Gaulle's call.

The Free French fought Axis and Vichy troops, and served on battlefronts everywhere from the Middle East to Indochina and North Africa. The Free French Navy operated as an auxiliary force to the Royal Navy, and there were Free French units in the Royal Air Force, Soviet Air Force, and British SAS.

In November 1942, the Allies invaded Vichy-controlled French North Africa, and many Vichy troops joined the Free French, with General Henri Giraud at their head. This caused the Germans to occupy Vichy France, and in retaliation a Vichy force of 60,000 in North Africa joined the Allies.

By mid-1944, the Free French numbered more than 400,000, and they participated in the Normandy landings and the invasion of Southern France, eventually leading the drive on Paris. Soon they were fighting in Alsace, the Alps and Brittany, and by the end of the war in Europe, they were 1,300,000 strong - the fourth-largest Allied army in Europe - and took part in the Allied invasion of Germany.

Read more about Free French ForcesDefinition, The Struggle For Control of French Colonies, The Tide Turns, Legacy, Notable Free French, Notable French Who Joined After 1942

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