(One of a series of weekday posts about the life of Winston S. Churchill.)
If on the morning of June 18, 1940 you’d bought The Guardian off a London newsstand, here’s the war news article you’d have read:
"Sole Champions to defend the world cause" - Mr Churchill
BRITAIN FIGHTS ON
· A Franco-British Union · The offer we made to the French Government on Sunday · "No dishonourable peace" - French Foreign Minister
Tuesday June 18 1940
France is seeking an armistice with Germany, but Britain and the Empire are to continue the fight.
Marshal Petain, the new French Premier, in a broadcast yesterday afternoon said: "It is with broken heart that I tell you today that fighting must cease."
Mr. Churchill, the British Prime Minister, in a broadcast last night said: "We shall defend out island, and, with the British Empire around us, we shall fight on unconquerable until the curse of Hitler is lifted form the brows of men."
Today's meeting of the dictators
Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini are meeting to-day to discuss the terms to be put to France. In the meantime the fighting goes on.
Signor Mussolini and Count Ciano, the Italian Foreign Minister, left Rome last night for the meeting. One report says that it will take place in Munich, another suggests Versailles, but these reports are not officially confirmed. Count Ciano had flown from the front to Rome yesterday evening to see Signor Mussolini.
The Germans have not yet made any reply to France, and Italian reports are suggesting that Germany and Italy will not agree to an armistice. The only alternative to a dictated peace, it was said, was a fight to the finish.
The French, however, will not agree to a dishonourable peace said the French Foreign Minister in a broadcast last night. He said: "France is not ready and it will never be ready to accept dishonourable conditions nor to abandon the spiritual liberties of our people and betray the soul of France ... If the French people are obliged to choose between existence and honour their choice is made."
And last night the French war communiqué declared of the day's fighting "At all points of contact our troops are still fighting with the same bravery for the honour of the flag."
Britain's offer of union
The British Government made it known last night that with the subject of supporting France to the utmost and also in the hope of encouraging the French Government to continue its resistance. Britain offered on Sunday a solemn Act of Union between the two countries.
The constitution of the proposed Franco-British Union provided for joint organs of defence, foreign, financial and economic policies. There was to be a single War Cabinet governing "from wherever it best can, directing all the fighting forces of Britains and France."
Marshal Petain's broadcast
The French decision to ask Germany for peace was taken after prolonged meetings of the Reynaud Cabinet on Saturday and Sunday. The resignation of this Government was announced about midnight on Sunday.
Marshal Petain was appointed Premier, and some twelve hours later he announced that he has asked for an armistice.
In his broadcast he said: "Frenchmen, - At the appeal of the President I have assumed from today the direction of the French Government.
"Sure of the affection of our admirable Army, which is fighting with heroism worthy of its noble military traditions against an enemy superior in numbers and in arms; certain that by its magnificent resistance it has fulfilled our duty to our allies; certain of the support of ex-Service men whom I am proud to have commanded; sure of the confidence of the entire nation - I give myself to France in order to mitigate its misfortunes.
"In these sorrowful hours I think of the unhappy refuges who, in utter distress, flee along the roads. I express to them my compassion and my solicitude.
"It is with broken heart that I tell you today that fighting must cease.
"I addressed myself last night to the enemy to ask him if he is prepared to seek with me, as between soldiers after the fight and with honour, the means of putting an end to hostilities.
"May all French people rally round the Government over which I preside in these hours of hard trial. May they keep their anguish to themselves and obey nothing but their faith in the destiny of their country.'
"The approach to Germany has been made through Spain - Marshal Petain is a close friend of General Franco, - and Spain, it is stated in Madrid, is to take part in the peace negotiations.
Mr Churchill's broadcast
In his broadcast last night Mr Churchill said:
"The news from France is very bad, and I grieve for the gallant French people who have fallen into this terrible misfortune.
"Nothing will alter our feelings towards them, or our faith that the genius of France will rise again."
"What has happened in France makes no difference to British faith and purpose.
"We have become the sole champions now in arms to defend the world's cause. We shall do our best to be worthy of that high honour. We shall defend our island, and, with the British Empire around us, we shall fight on unconquerable until the curse of Hitler is lifted from the brows of men.
"We are sure that in the end all will be well."
Mr Churchill is due to make a full statement on the situation in the House of Commons today.
All French orders for the purchase of military supplies in the United States are being taken over by the British Government, our New York correspondent reports.