De Gaulle by Bernard Ledwidge, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £14.95.
"FROM MY earliest youth I always had a certain idea of France":— So wrote President De Gaulle in the opening of his memoirs in 1964. It is a magnificent explanation of an equally magnificent career; for in these words, the General said all that need be said: "Ideas" governed his life.
The French usually detest their politicians, yet they fall in love with political ideas. "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" —the slogans still mean much to a nation that celebrates July 14; but so equally does "order", and "The State" to the people that respect what Cardinal Richelieu that Napoleon had for them: they had made them great.
In this new book on De Gaulle, Sir Bernard Ledwidge tells the story of how a comparatively obscure brigadier, whose advice on warfare had been constantly ignored, rose remorselessly to pre-eminence in France: indeed in the Western world itself.
In July 1940 he took the immensely brave decision to proclaim himself a leader of Free France, with less then 7,000 men behind him. Literally he stood alone.
Nothing deterred him — not even the humiliation of Dakar. However, after Hitler's defeat at Stalingrad and the Allied landings in North Africa in November 1942, he rose remorselessly to lead the French resistance — until he entered Paris in triumph in September 1944.
This achievement was by no means only the wheel of good fortune; it was a combination of foresight and character. All this the book tells admirably.
He was to show both traits in the years ahead.
Christopher B. H. Scott