The late Richard Irish (Philippines 1962-64) posthumous book Allies and Adversaries: Churchill and the Man Who Would Be France was published by his wife Pat Reilly and is about the theatrical collisions between two gargantuan egos: the inexorable force Churchill versus the immoveable body de Gaulle. As Dick wrote:
Every melodrama has a villain and mine is Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who tarnished his well-deserved halo by repeatedly attempting to scuttle the Free French movement and consign her founder to history’s trash bin. FDR’s reluctant enabler was Winston Churchill, who by degrees seemed to become Roosevelt’s accomplice but in fact played a crucial role as France’s White Knight. Each personage was driven by something far stronger than mere personal ambition: Churchill incarnated the British bulldog as much as de Gaulle la Furia Française.
The quarrels between these leaders, marked mostly by good manners and levitated discourse, were usually due to dissimilar national interests. But mainly, Churchill’s desire to accommodate Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who loathed de Gaulle, was the source of their conflicts. What’s more, Churchill’s goal was to fight and win the war without the burden of an impoverished but headstrong ally. De Gaulle’s goal, too, was to win the war but even more to win back France’s territory and honor. Their twin objectives were by no means mutually exclusive: Churchill defended French interests despite opposition from Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin; de Gaulle at length raised an army of half a million to serve alongside the Americans and the British. These included major elements of the French Resistance, which was worth at D-Day, according to Eisenhower’s exaggerated estimate, twenty-five divisions. Defiance is the primary feature the two titans shared: If each needed to defy the other, neither doubted the other’s need to do so. Defiance and the two men’s capacity to recover from blows that would have felled lesser men or at least capped their careers marked their lives. “Rightly to be great,” so goes the passage in Hamlet, “is not to stir without great argument.”
Conflict was second nature to both: Each was born to quarrel when matters of state were at stake. Rows and vocal swordplay shaped their association but also obscured episodes of moving reunions. Titans relish a good fight, especially with each other. Churchill’s words to students at Harrow, his former prep school, are oft quoted and just as easily could have been said by de Gaulle: “Never give in, never, never, never in nothing great or small, large or petty — never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.
Allies and Adversaries: Churchill and the Man Who Would Be France
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