General de Gaulle’s June 18 appeal reconstituted for the first time

It is one of the most celebrated speeches in French history and one of the least known. The exhortation to continue the fight, launched by General de Gaulle from London, at the microphone of the BBC, on June 18, 1940, is in everyone’s memory. This Call, with its capital letter of nobility, this voice like no other, everyone thinks they still hear them ringing in their ears. And yet, there is no record of it. This lacuna maintains confusion, and sometimes misunderstanding, with other moments and discourses of the Gaullist gesture.

No, the rebel general did not say that day: “France has lost a battle! But France did not lose the war! » No, he did not claim: “I, General de Gaulle, undertake here, in England, this national task”, thus posing as the military and political leader of the country. Yes, he concluded: “Whatever happens, the flame of the French resistance must not be extinguished and will not be extinguished”, giving this word “resistance” a meaning that has continued to ennoble itself in Resistance. No, finally, the canonical version, endorsed by de Gaulle in his Memories of war (Plon, 1954), is not exactly what he said at the microphone.

that’s why The world, the Institute for Acoustic/Music Research and Coordination (Ircam) and its technological subsidiary Ircam Amplify, using new artificial intelligence technology and the assistance of actor François Morel, have attempted to reconstruct what the radio voice this famous June 18, 1940. The result of this evocation or suggestion is accessible below.

The appeal of June 18… Rarely has an event given rise to so many books or works by historians and released so few certainties. The memories of the witnesses contradict each other on many points when they do not evolve over time. Natural movement of memory, but also subsequent concern of the main character, who became the “Man of June 18”, to establish a doxa and, perhaps, a myth of this founding moment…

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers How “Le Monde” tried to recreate the appeal of June 18 by reproducing the voice of General de Gaulle

Let’s start with what makes consensus. On June 18, 1940, the general sits at a small table in a BBC studio. He is in uniform and shiny boots. He has put down his white gloves and his kepi beside him. The sound engineer, Gibson Parker, requests a voice test. ” France “, says this speaker who intends at this moment nothing less than to embody it. Then one of the two speakers French from the BBC, Maurice Thierry or Pierre de Valençais, announces: “And now, General de Gaulle, who was Under-Secretary of State in the Reynaud government, is speaking to you. »

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