Obituary: Maurice Schumann

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The Independent Online
Maurice Schumann was a young second lieutenant, a former journalist, when General de Gaulle appointed him to be the regular Free French spokesman on the BBC, writes Leonard Miall [further to the obituary by Professor Maurice Larkin, 12 February]. He had not had previous broadcasting experience and tended to speak in a high squeaky voice. Once when he telephoned my secretary replied, "Oui, Mademoiselle Schumann."

We were too cowardly to tell him his high voice sounded silly. Instead we said that we believed that his words would go better through the German jamming if he pitched them as low as possible. Schumann duly practised and soon became an excellent broadcaster.

In one of de Gaulle's first broadcasts he had appealed to French submarine captains to bring their ships to Britain to continue the struggle. In course of time they began to arrive. Maurice Schumann brought the first to Broadcasting House to speak to France. He was a huge man with a big black beard and a very deep voice. With horror we heard Schumann tell him to pitch his voice as low as possible in order to go through the jamming. We had to take him aside to assure him that his normal voice would be OK.

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