chapter  6
9 Pages

Pétain’s First Day, 17 June

The omens were unpropitious. Campbell’s comment on the ‘understanding about the fleet’ was a misunderstanding: only the first of the two ‘delayed’ telegrams (No. 368) had referred to the French fleet as a pawn in the British acceptance of the armistice gambit and he himself had informed the government of the hour that the conditional offer of release had been ‘cancelled’: having decided to abrogate the March declaration, nothing bound the new government other than its own sense of honour and its wish to continue to abide by such of its predecessor’s promises as could still be reasonably fulfilled. Darlan’s reassurance had an ominous ring to British ears – how long would his freedom last to issue personal orders to the fleet?