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Chaos In North Led To End Of Weygand Plan

Reynattd's "Why France Fell"—No. 3

By PAUL REYNAUD r\N May 24 Weygand got the impression that the British High Command was weakening about the execution of his plan, and I consequently telegraphed to Churchill as follows:— 1. "General Weygand laid before you the day before yesterday at Vincennes in my presence a plan to which you and the officer with you gave your entire approval. 2. "You summariSed this plan in writing and General Weygand approved your summary. 3. "General Weygand is fully aware of the difficulties of the situaation, but he holds that his plan offers the sole possible solution of them; provided that it is adapted to the necessities of the case, as, for example, by directing towards the south-west the right wing which is moving towards the Somme below Amiens. "He has consequently renewed this morning his order for the execution of this plan. The armies that have been cut off must accordingly make a desperate effort to join up with the French forces which are advancing from the south towards the north by trying to advance from the Somme and especially from Amiens. 4. "Gort's army must be supplied by Dunkirk, which is protected by the two divisions of General Fagalde. ... 5. "General Weygand has been surprised to learn that the British troops yesterday evacuated Arras, which is not according to this plan. 6. "General Weygand is in firm touch with the Belgian Army. He learnt last night that the Belgians had repelled some weak attacks, and that their morale was excellent. 7. "Since it is impossible to communicate directly with General Blanchard, who is Commander-in-Chief of the three armies—those of the Belgians, of Lord Gort and his own —General Weygand cannot make any statement about alleged defects of liaison with Blanchard and Gort.

"He has, however, been in direct communication with the Belgian Army and he is convinced that his orders have reached Blanchard, and, through Blanchard, have reached Gort. The fact that Blanchard and Gort are in co-operation would appear to be confirmed by the circumstances that last night a French division relieved a British™ division. 8. "I think you will agree with me that a Supreme Command is more than ever necessary in these tragic hours, and that the orders of General Weygand should be carried out. 9. "General Weygand is convinced that his plan can only succeed if the three armies of the Belgians, Blanchard and Gort are animated by the fierce determination to break out. This is their only hope of safety." Communications Threatened On that same day Churchill sent me the following message, which was intended for General Weygand: 1. "General Gort telegraphs that it is absolutely essential to maintain co-ordination on the northern front between the three different armies. He says that he cannot organise this co-ordination, for he is already engaged in battle to the north and to the south, and his lines of communication are threatened. 2. "Sir Roger Keyes, head of the British Military Mission to the King of the Belgians, has, moreover, informed me that, up till 3 o'clock this afternoon (May 23) Belgian G.H.Q. and the King were without orders. How does this happen, seeing that you assured me that Blanchard and Gort were working hand-in-hand? 3. "I am fully aware of the difficulty of maintaining liaison, but I do not see any effective co-opera-tion in the conduct of the operations in the north, where the enemy is concentrating his troops. 4. "I feel sure that you will do your best to put this right. Gort also tells me that, if he is to advance at all, it can only be by breaking through, and that for this purpose he is obliged to wait for reinforcements from the south, because he has not enough munitions to deliver a big attack. 5. "We shall nevertheless instruct him to continue to conform scrupulously to your plan. Here we have not even seen your own orders and we know nothing of the details of your operations in the north. "Will you be good enough to send all this as early as possible through the French Military Mission? With all good wishes."

In Direct Opposition; I replied on May 24 to this telegram from Churchill as follows:— "You wired me this morning that you have instructed General Gort* to continue to carry out the Weygand plan. "General Weygand now informs me that, according to a telegram from General Blanchard, the British Army has carried out, on its own initiative, a retreat of 25 miles towards the ports at a time when our troops, moving up from the south, are gaining ground towards the north, where they were to meet their Allies. This action of the British Army is in direct opposition to the formal orders renewed this morning by General Weygand. "This retreat has naturally obliged General Weygand to change all his arrangements. He is compelled to give up the idea of closing the gap and restoring a continuous front. I need not las' any stress upon the gravity of the possible consequences." On May 25 Winston Churchill telegraphed me as follows:— "In my telegram last night I told you all we know here. Up till now we have heard nothing from Lord Gort which runs counter to it. But I must inform you that a general staff officer has made a report to the War Office which confirms the retreat of the two divisions in the neighbourhood of Arras mentioned in your telegram. "General Dill, who is believed to be with Lord Gort, has been ordered to send over a staff officer by air as soon as possible. As soon as we know what has happened we will inform you fully. What is clear is the fact that the northern army is practically surrounded and that its communications are cut, except by way of Dunkirk and Ostend." Finding himseif confronted with this situation, Weygand, on that same day, telegraphed to General Blanchard,- commanding the army group in Belgium and the north, that he gave him full freedom of movement, only requiring him, as the first essential, to safeguard the honour of the standards in his keeping. This was the end of the Weygand plan. [World serial copyright reserved. Reproduction in whole or : ; part forbidden. 1

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Bibliographic details

Chaos In North Led To End Of Weygand Plan, Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 191, 14 August 1945

Word Count

Chaos In North Led To End Of Weygand Plan Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 191, 14 August 1945

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