De Gaulle admired the British and Churchill, claims his son

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The Independent Online

Charles de Gaulle's son, Philippe, has rejected suggestions that his father emerged from the Second World War anti-British and contemptuous of Winston Churchill.

"He regarded Churchill as the true victor of the Second World War," Philippe de Gaulle, 82, told a television interviewer yesterday to mark the publication of the first volume of his reminiscences of his father, De Gaulle, mon Père.

All reputable biographies of his father, and the general's own writings, had been careful to give a balanced picture of the often tempestuous relationship between Churchill and the leader of the Free French, Philippe de Gaulle said. Despite violent quarrels, often caused by American suspicion of de Gaulle, the general remained until his death a profound admirer of Churchill, and of the conduct of the British people in wartime.

"After he died, many people have written things that were exaggerated, or pure inventions" on this and other subjects, M. de Gaulle, a retired admiral, told the programme, Vivement Dimanche, on the France 2 channel. He said he had decided to publish the book - a series of conversations with the journalist Michel Tauriac - to put the record straight as the "last privileged witness of my father's life".

In the book, M. de Gaulle says: "I can assure you I never heard my father denigrate Churchill during the war or afterwards. Yet I lived in Britain at the time when he had plenty of reasons for doing so ..."

Other misunderstandings M. de Gaulle seeks to correct include the notion that all French forces outside the conquered country - especially those in Britain - flocked to de Gaulle's banner after his celebrated appeal to the French nation on 18 June 1940. M. de Gaulle said that his father had been furious when only 1,000 of the 50,000 French troops in Britain in 1940 initially heeded his call.

The idea that most of the French population - both inside and outside the country - rallied instantly around the Gaullist banner is a myth, M. de Gaulle says. But he does not explain that this myth was fostered by his father in an attempt to restore French unity after the war and reinforce the case that France had earned a right to be considered one of the victors of the conflict.

The most interesting aspect of the book - a second volume is to appear in February - is M. de Gaulle's willingness to describe for the first time the lives of his father and mother during and after the war. He tells how his mother used to darn her clothes and kept a flock of hens at her wartime home in Wales. He also describes General de Gaulle singing to his severely mentally handicapped daughter, Anne, to calm her during the Blitz on London in 1940-41.

In his appearance on television yesterday, Philippe de Gaulle said he thought that his father's "extraordinary love" for Anne was one explanation for his conviction that he had been chosen to rescue the honour of France.

"He always said that it was from Anne that he had the sense of being able to go beyond the normal bounds of existence," M. de Gaulle said.

¿ The late President François Mitterrand was commemorated yesterdaywhen the socialist Mayor of Paris named a stretch of road on the banks of the Seine "Quai François Mitterrand".