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French Morale in 1940.

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by NihonNOGAY, Nov 19, 2018.

  1. NihonNOGAY

    NihonNOGAY New Member

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    First off, I know general French moral was low in 1939, i've heard this popular phrase over an over "Why would they want to die for Danzig or Warsaw", or something similar.
    But I'm wondering how a normal French soldier moral wise was in 1940, I definitely know the French Generals weren't really (Most, or some high command) moralized in a podcast about the Fall of France, (Like that some didn't want to continue the fight from Algeria).
     
  2. NihonNOGAY

    NihonNOGAY New Member

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    If i spelt Moral, that was an accident.
     
  3. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    You can count guns and bodies, but morale is an intangible.

    Post war there were lots of people writing with 20/20 hindsight claiming that they had diagnosed weakness. Try William Shirer's The Collapse of the Third Republic and Alistair Horne.

    There was a paper written for the 60th anniversary of Dunkirk pointing out that contemporary evidence was contradictory with a similar pattern to that of 1914.
     
  4. wm.

    wm. Well-Known Member

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    Generally, it's believed French morale was adequate, from The French Defeat of 1940: Reassessments by Joel Blatt:

    All of the polls taken in 1939 indicate a hardening of public opinion with respect to Germany. When asked in July 1939 if France ought to resort to force to prevent Germany from seizing Danzig, five Frenchmen out of six responded in the affirmative.
    The 17% of Frenchmen who were unwilling to die for Danzig in July of 1939 should be compared to the 17% of the citizens of Great Britain who, when interviewed in the last week of September (0 1939, indicated that they were in favor of peace negotiations with Germany. All the evidence, therefore, suggests that in the summer of 1939 France was morally and materially ready to confront Nazi Germany.

    As Jean-Louis Crimieux-Brilhac has noted, "The shift in French public opinion between October 1938 and September 1939 is an extraordinary psychological phenomenon, probably greater in scale — even if it seems less dramatic — than the stiffening of British public opinion after the occupation of Bohemia in March 1939.
    ...
    When war came in September, France mobilized without a hitch. The percentage of "insoumis" — draft dodgers — was low (1.5%) and no higher than in 1914. True, almost all contemporary observers noted that the enthusiasm of 1914 was missing in September 1939; resignation more accurately typified the national mood.
    This ought not be very surprising since the same could be said of Germany and Great Britain. Everywhere memories of the carnage of the Great War dampened the enthusiasm of prospective combatants. Moreover, this time France was fighting not to recover lost provinces but to preserve the freedom of Danzig. But there were few manifestations of pacifism.
    ...
    Certainly all of the information received by Daladier stressed the excellent morale of Frenchmen, both at the front and at the rear. Even those among the military who were most pessimistic, such as the highly placed and frankly defeatist Paul de Vdlelume, had few reservations about the fighting spirit of the French army. The entries in his wartime diary abound with skepticism about the strategic wisdom of the commander in chief, General Gamelin, but as late as 13 May 1940 he believed the morale in the army to be excellent.
    ...

    In a 1975 colloquium on the fall of France a British historian, R.A.C. Parker, remarked that had Germany lost the war, scholars would be remembering how Germans complained in 1939 that their soldiers lacked the zeal of their counterparts in 1914, that their morale was low and that their equipment, notably tanks, were inadequate.

    By the same logic historians of modem France would be explaining the "victory of 1940" in terms of the amazing resilience of a democratic regime which in four years managed to parry the forces of domestic fascism, integrate the working class into the nation, rally the bulk of an obdurate Right, all the while rearming the nation.
    Events turned out differently, which permits historians of the stature of Jean-Baptiste Duroselle to qualify the 1930s as a period of "decadence." But it was not decadence that led to 1940; it is 1940 that has led us to view the late Third Republic as decadent.
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2018
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  5. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Julian Jackson in the Fall of France includes a giiod discussion on the topic. He compares contemporary comments on morale with counter factual German victory in 1914 and a successful invasion of Britain. A good book and woirth reading.
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fall-France-Invasion-Making-Modern/dp/0192805509

    The collection of readings published in 2000 is the Battle for Flanders and France 1940 edited by Brian Bond.
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00KC3LIPQ/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1
     

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