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30 minutes
First broadcast:
Monday 19 March 2012

Mike Thomson continues Radio 4's investigative history series, examining documents which shed new light on past events.

In 1942, the Vichy regime ruled a large part of France, after striking a deal with Hitler when France fell in June 1940. This left France officially neutral, with a severely limited 'Armistice Army'. Yet British troops were fighting Vichy forces in Madagascar, as they had done in Syria in1941. France, it seems, was more neutral towards Germany than towards Britain; here its collaborationist regime, under Marshall Petain, was viewed with contempt by Winston Churchill and the British people, who instead supported Charles De Gaulle, leader of the Free French.

Yet in this edition of Document, Mike Thomson presents evidence that, not only were the British Chiefs of Staff meeting with representatives of the Vichy army to discuss supplying them with arms, but they were doing so behind the backs of Prime Minister Churchill and the Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden.

To investigate, Mike enlists the help of Eric Grove - Professor of Naval History at the University of Salford, Vichy historians Robert Paxton, Henry Rousso and Simon Kitson, eminent French historian Jean-Louis Cremieux-Brilhac - who was one of De Gaulle's intelligence officers, and military historians Max Hastings and Colin Smith, as well as Gerald Bryan, who was badly injured fighting Vichy forces in Syria.

Producer: Marya Burgess.

  • Robert Paxton

    Emeritus Professor of History, Columbia University.

    Author of Vichy France: Old Guard and New Order 1940-44 Publisher: Columbia University Press

    ISBN-10: 0231124694 ISBN-13: 978-0231124690

  • Henry Rousso

    author of The Vichy Syndrome: History and Memory in France Since 1944 Publisher: Harvard University Press

    ISBN-10: 067493539X ISBN-13: 978-0674935396

  • Colin Smith

    author of England's Last War Against France: Fighting Vichy 1940-42
    Publisher: Phoenix

    ISBN-10: 0753827050 ISBN-13: 978-0753827055

    Colin's web page
  • Max Hastings

    author of All Hell Let Loose: The World at War 1939-1945
    Publisher: HarperPress

    ISBN-10: 0007338090 ISBN-13: 978-0007338092

  • Jean-Louis Cremieux-Brilhac

    author of La France Libre Publisher: GALLIMARD

    Language French

    ISBN-10: 2070730328 ISBN-13: 978-2070730322

  • Simon Kitson

    author of The Hunt for Nazi Spies: Fighting Espionage in Vichy France
    Publisher: University of Chicago Press

    ISBN-10: 0226438937 ISBN-13: 978-0226438931

    Simon's web page
  • Eric Grove - Professor of Naval History, University of Salford

    Eric's web page


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