Speech

PM's Speech at Royal Chelsea Hospital

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Transcript of speech by the Prime Minister at the Royal Chelsea Hospital to commemorate the 70th anniversary of General de Gaulle's broadcast to the Free French.

Introduction

It’s a great honour to welcome you all here today to this extraordinary occasion.

Seventy years ago, when darkness was creeping across our continent…

…when the shadow of tyranny was stretching over France…

…a flame of hope was lit, not very far from here, by General de Gaulle:

“But has the last word been said? Must hope disappear? Is defeat final? No!”

I can claim a distant connection to the events of that day.

My great, great uncle, Duff Cooper, was in the British Cabinet at the time.

There were some in the government who were against the idea of an address to the French people.

There were some who wanted to stop General de Gaulle.

But I am very glad to say, standing here today, that my great, great uncle was not one of them - in fact he did what he could to make sure that broadcast happened.

And those famous words - that we’ve just heard read so beautifully - have not been dimmed by history.

It was a call for freedom; a call to fight oppression; a call that inspired countless acts of bravery.

Britain and France

And as well as commemorating that moment in history, we’re here to celebrate the relationship between our two nations.

Today is a reminder that Britain and France are neighbours not just in the geographical sense, but in the emotional sense.

The bonds between our countries were forged through fierce trials, through two world wars…

…from the trenches of Ypres to the beaches of Normandy.

In that BBC studio, General de Gaulle declared that France was not alone - and he was right.

Behind her in her struggle was the might of the British armed forces, the friendship of the British people and the resolve of the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.

In another famous address from that time, Churchill said that the goal had to be “Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be…”

It was a goal and a passion that General de Gaulle and the free French forces shared.

Armed Forces

Something else our countries share is an immense pride in our armed forces.

The bravery we celebrate today is not a thing of the past; it is present every day, thousands of miles away from here.

In Afghanistan, British and French forces have been fighting together for many years now - and we are proud to see those forces together here today.

Every time I visit that country - as I did last week - I am struck by the courage, the humour and the professionalism of our armed forces, and I know President Sarkozy would say the same of the French forces.

That is why just as we honour those who brought peace to Europe, we are determined to do what is right by our forces fighting in Afghanistan…

…whether that is getting all the equipment they need, or making sure that our forces’ families are getting proper healthcare and good school places back home.

Britain and France today

So today is not just about the shared history of Britain and France; it is about our shared responsibilities and our shared future.

I am delighted that President Sarkozy and his wife are visiting London.

On my very first trip abroad as Prime Minister I went to the Elysee in Paris.

As I said then I have great respect for the leadership the President has shown…

…not least in bringing France back into the heart of NATO.

So this is not some ceremonial friendship - it is a working relationship.

We face huge challenges today - from the conflict in Afghanistan to the economic crisis to climate change…

…and I am committed to working with President Sarkozy, working with France to tackle them.

Just as our two great countries stood by each other in the past, so we stand shoulder to shoulder today.

And now it gives me great pleasure to introduce President Sarkozy.