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Editorial – Pawned By Petain

29 June 1940

Mexborough & Swinton Times – Saturday 29 June 1940

Pawned By Petain

Mr. Churchill has said sufficient to indicate that the French capitulation, if not a cynical and planned betrayal of the alliance, was carried through without the least regard for France’s treaty obligations to this country. It is futile to dwell on the perfidy of Petain. He has “sold his people for naught and taken no money for them.”

The armistice terms which he invited have left France her eyes to weep with; he must have known that France could expect no better from the cruel and pitiless enemies into whose hands he delivered her. He must have known that the very sight of weakness, defencelessness, and misery could only inflame the brutal lusts of Hitler and Mussolini, and that he could win no tolerable and honourable terms unless he retained and organised the means of further defence, based on the alliance. He threw away every asset, every bargaining point, every chance of honourable exit from the struggle.

In his eagerness to surrender he refused with indecent haste America’s assurance of succours, Great Britain’s tremendous offer of economic and political union, and the withdrawal to North Africa to recruit and rally and resume the struggle for the liberation of France. The indecent precipitation of the surrender, the calm acceptance of the horrible humiliation of Compiegne, the utter disregard of the interests cf his, Ally exposed to new dangers and’ discouragements by an act not dissimilar from that of Leopold the Quisling—these things are a foul libel on the French name and nature, a desecration of France’s glorious dead, and a manifestation once more of the uncanny power of Hitler to corrupt his enemies from the top France now humbled, prostrate, broken, bleeding and in chains, shall be liberated by brave men of many nations, including France herself. France has been crushed by superior force, to which her armies were exposed by generalship and statesmanship the most incompetent and disastrous in military history .

Her armies have been led by defeatists, her morale has been sapped by defeatists, and her final betrayal has been negotiated by defeatists. Marshal Petain’s apologia makes it clear that France from the first had no faith in her power to defend her own country with her own armies, in spite of the Maginot Line. and needed to be at least as power- fully bolstered as in the last war, when almost all the world stood at her back.

Because Britain could not give France military security though for days, when the Ninth Army broke in panic and confusion the British Air Force held The military situation together – then France must quit, without thought of her heroic partner. For many months the Royal Navy has been ‘the sure shield of France. It has kept the Mediterranean and Atlantic seas in close comradeship with the French Navy but has paid a far heavier price of admiralty and accepted a heavier proportion of responsibility for naval operations than did France for land operations.

Yet the French Navy is to be tamely given up for “internment” with the ‘certainty that it will be used against ‘the deserted British. We know that in fact this final infamy will not be permitted but Marshal Petain, who could have ensured his ‘ally against it, was ready to facilitate even that treacherous ‘stroke. The French people are stunned and bewildered by the tragedy that has come upon them: at the moment they are too conscious of the blessedness of respite from blitzkrieg to dwell too much upon national independence and ‘honour.

But ere long their shame will come flooding in upon them and they will feel a new anguish, far more poignant and enduring than that which they suffered under the brutal German bludgeoning—the anguish of lost liberty and lost integrity, the shame and humiliation of servitude to the Boche, deliberately chosen for them by a Government self-elected for the purpose. It is grimly ironical that the most democratic people in the world should have been sold into slavery by a Government holding not the slightest warrant from the people to commit them to that awful fate. France will rise, no doubt, and in part by her own efforts, but her main if not her sole hope of redemption is in the continuance of the struggle by Britain and her remaining allies.

France may desert Britain and yet hope to live but let Britain desert France, or let Britain now left to fight alone, go down in the struggle and French’ civilisation will finally disappear. Before that happens many gallant Frenchmen will venture all to redeem the France which Petain has put into pawn.