chapter  5
7 Pages

Political Collapse, 16 June

It must be questioned, in the light of what was known even then of the defeatist elements in the Council, whether a timely formal statement of the British government’s attitude would in practice have affected the outcome of the afternoon meeting on 15 June. At 0120 on 16 June, the encrypted text of a personal message from Reynaud to Churchill was read out, group by group, over the telephone. The opening four items clearly reflected the closest approach possible to a Council consensus and the fifth was a personal appeal from Reynaud:

The first two items dashed at a stroke the British hopes that military surrender in the field by the French Army would not necessarily involve complete political surrender and that a government in exile could be established. No great reliance could be placed in the armistice terms being unacceptable and the implication of Reynaud’s fifth paragraph was that some ministers did not consider the ‘no separate peace’ agreement to be binding under the circumstances. The offer of the guarantee that the French fleet would not be surrendered was conditional upon Britain releasing France from the agreement and it contained two uncertainties: what would happen if the British government refused to give the authorisation, and, as only non-surrender to Germany was specified, what was the situation vis-à-vis Italy?