The Resistance outside France

"The flame of French resistance must not and shall not be extinguished". Thus spoke General de Gaulle in his call of 18 June 1940, after having invited "all French officers and soldiers" and "all engineers and skilled workers in the armaments industry" to join him in England.

Continuing the assault the following day, 19 June, he added "It is the absolute duty of every Frenchman still bearing arms to continue the resistance". 

Recognised by Winston Churchill as "Head of the Free French" under an agreement drawn up on the French side by Professor René Cassin, General de Gaulle instituted a "Conseil de Défense de l'Empire" or Empire Defence Council on 27 October 1940 in Brazzaville "on French soil". Then on 24 September 1941 he founded a "Comité National Français" or French National Committee to defend the interests of France within the Allied camp and to administer the territories that had joined Free France, i.e. French Equatorial Africa, Cameroon, French trading posts in India, Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, New Caledonia and France's other Pacific possessions.

General de Gaulle organised a number of combat units: one was "Force L" under General Leclerc which captured the oasis of Khufra from the Italians on 1 March 1941 and in 1943 captured Fezzan before taking part alongside the British 8th Army in the liberation of Tunisia. Another was the Free French brigade (BFL) which won glory under General Koenig at Bir Hakeim by containing Rommel's forces and allowing the British to withdraw to Egypt to prepare a counter-offensive. Fighter and bomber squadrons were also formed, while French warships and merchant ships returned to the sea-lanes under the flag of the Cross of Lorraine.