The Battle of France
, also known as Le Grand Déménagement
was the invasion of the Low Countries and France by Nazi Germany (and later Italy).
After the failed operation in the Saar to assist Poland, the Allied forces were successively defeated over the course of six weeks. After the fall of Paris
that was occupied without resistance on June 14, the French government met in Tours 2 days later to decide the next course of action.
The faction led by Paul Reynaud, Leon Blum, Charles de Gaulle, Georges Mandel
among others managed to prevail over the
defeatist faction led by Philippe Pétain, Pierre Laval and Maxime Weygand
(who would commit suicide by being removed from his post as Supreme Commander).
The decision made in Tours on June 16, 1940
consisted in realising that the battle for metropolitan France was lost and the fighting from North Africa should be continued in order to eventually reconquer the european mainland. This decision would lead to a retreat known as the Éxode
or the Grand Déménagemen
t in which the French forces assisted by the British would begin a retreat to the Mediterranean allowing the maximum number of equipment and personnel to be evacuated.
This resulted in a severe setback for the Germans who eagerly awaited an armistice from the French government, with their supply lines beginning to narrow, they were forced to conquer all of French territory to the Pyrenees.
For the next 50 days
the French army heroically fought the Germans, leading to fierce battles over cities such as Tulle, Valence and Lyon
(which joined Warsaw and Rotterdam as victims of indiscriminate bombardment).
By the time an armistice for the cessation of hostilities in the metropolis was agreed, the evacuation had been practically completed, the Germans reached the border on August 7, 1940
, thus ending the First Battle of France.
Although a terrible setback for the Allies and for France in particular after the worst military defeat in its history, the fight continued. 800,000 troops as well as a considerable amount of equipment and civilians and most of the government had managed to escape from the control of the axis and now they had to recover to begin the preparations for the defeat of the Axis and the eventual liberation of France, which would begin a few weeks later with the Operation Scipio
against Italian Libya. Although the French had to rebuild their army, they had the advantage of the navy, the fourth most powerful in the world, able to face and overpower the Italian Regia Marina.
In occupied France the Germans established a collaborationist government led by Pierre Laval and Philippe Pétain as a merely symbolic figure. But the cost of conquering France had become evident, they had lost almost twice as many men as in all their previous military campaigns combined, the Luftwaffe had lost a considerable number of aircraft that would be required for the impending offensive against Great Britain.
At the time just like today the popular perception of the First Battle of France was that of the heroic resistance of the French Army, something that would only be cemented after the formation of the resistance movement
, which would be the fourth most active in Europe after the Polish AK and the Yugoslav and Soviet partisans.
and the rest of the Empire, the French forces prepared to continue a fight that, as General Leclerc's Oath of Sirte
would say, would not end "until the tricolor flew victoriously over the cathedral of Strasbourg".
The Second Battle of France in 1944 was still far away, but it was a goal for which Algiers would not rest until it was victorious.