Obituary: General Michel Fourquet

Michel Martin Leon Fourquet, air force officer and administrator, born Brussels 9 June 1914, Commandant First Tactical Air Group 5th Air Region Algiers 1960-61, Chief Commandant Forces in Algeria 1962, Secretary General of National Defence 1962-66, Permanent Under-Secretary for Armaments 1966-68, Chief of Staff of Armed Forces 1968-71, married 1939 Micheline Roger (three sons, two daughters), died 20 November 1992.

AT THE GREAT series of meetings that were held in Paris to celebrate the centenary of the birth of General de Gaulle in 1990, it was fitting that the debate on the general's defence policies should have been presided over by General Michel Fourquet.

Of the many officers who served the general, he must have been the closest to him. It was sometimes said that when de Gaulle decided that France should cease fighting a war in order to keep Algeria as a French possession, he earned the hostility of the French armed services as a whole. This was not so. Fourquet was one of the early organisers of discussion groups which deplored the manner in which the French army was being reduced to the role of an out-of-date force, confined to garrison in a colonial position of dubious value.

Fourquet was a general of the air force. That arm did not have an important role to play in the Algerian war, but he saw that it was vital in determining whether or not France was to be a power in Europe and in the world. De Gaulle was all the more attracted to these arguments because in his pre-1939 writings on mechanised warfare he had underestimated the importance of air power.

In any case Fourquet was a Gaullist. As a young pilot he joined Free France in 1940 and flew in the famous Groupe Lorraine (winning a Distinguished Flying Cross). He also recognised the importance of politics and he was attached to several ministerial cabinets under the Fourth Republic. But it was the return of de Gaulle to power, and the improvisation of government when the general was still officially only Prime Minister, that gave Fourquet the greatest pleasure.

Later, in Algeria, he proved that he was the most trustworthy of military leaders. He would have nothing to do with the rising of the four dissident generals in April 1961, and he played an important part in wrecking their schemes. Subsequently, when peace in Algeria had been made, it was he who carried out the difficult task of evacuating the French army. The accidental death of the chief of staff of the armed forces in 1968 led naturally to Fourquet's replacing him and being the spokesman and organiser of French nuclear power.

Michel Fourquet used to say that, when discussing matters with de Gaulle, he always had to remember two things. That de Gaulle was first of all a romantic, with a vast vision of the future. But that he was also a practical man who would adopt practical policies. In the last months of de Gaulle's reign Fourquet persuaded him that it was time for France to get closer to the United States in matters of defence.

But Fourquet spoke little about his own importance. He was as discreet as he was distinguished.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: Human Resources Manager

£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...

Recruitment Genius: Internal Recruiter - Manufacturing

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager (CIPD) - Barking / East Ham - £50-55K

£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...

Recruitment Genius: Operations / Project Manager

£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent