French General Gaulle ‘thanked’ British WWII hero Captain Lake by telling him to ‘go home’ –secret Government files disclosed

Photo story (Clockwise from left): (1) Captain Peter Lake during WWII (2) In April 1944, Captain Lake was parachuted into the French territory to train the French troops (3) General Gaulle with Winston Churchill at Marrakesh, Morocco in January 1944.

The fifth and current French Republic was founded by Charles Andre Joseph Marie de Gaulle in 1958. From 1959 to 1969 he served as the first French president. He also was the French General during WWII. The secret Government files disclosed on 27th October, 2009 reveals his notoriously peevish character and his clashes with Winston Churchill. The reports.

Hero of the WWII, Captain Peter Lake was awarded France’s Croix de Guerre and British Military Cross for his fortitude in the D-day invasion of Normandy in June, 1944. He was parachuted behind enemy front lines to train the French resistance troops on 9th April, 1944. He trained dozens of Maquis or French rural guerrillas. According to Captain Lake the Maquis were armed like the pirates, behaved like the pirates & also expected him to be like a pirate. He had to organize evening classes for the maquisards and trained them in guerilla fighting and in sabotage and was adorned by the British and the French. After the 6th June D-day invasion the Germans pressed intense attacks on the Allied resistance, but in mid June Lake carried out a fearless operation that blew up 500 yards of railway tracks in 12 places between Perigueus and Coutras that put the Germans out of action there. Captain Lake was fluent in French and on the French battlefield he was known as Jean Pierre Lenormand. He decided to join several French military officers, who went along to meet General Gaulle on 18th September, 1944, just three months after the Allied Normandy invasion. He was surprised by the cold shoulder given to him by the General and by the conversation that took place. The details of the snub were revealed at London National Archives.

De Gaulle, whose country had just been freed from the German forces with help from the likes of Captain Lake, inquired what the British official was doing in France and told him to ‘go home’. A description of the conversation with the General Gaulle was written down by Captain Lake. Lake mentioned a hint of irony that the British soldiers were not ‘entirely alien to the situation’.

The General said that the Jean Pierre nick name of Captain Lake was a French name. When asked about what Lake was doing in France, with an emphasis on ‘what’, Captain Lake said in a composed tone that he had been training particular French units for special operations since the Allied mission at Dordogne, France. Gaulle responded saying that the French troops did not need training and that he had no business there. When Lake told the General about the British military superiors’ orders instructing Lake to stay in France and carry out his responsibilities, he was told that he was not required there and that the only order remained for him was to leave France quickly. Captain Lake noted that the conversation ended quickly and in an ‘unmistakable tone’ of voice.

In October, 1944, Captain Lake returned to Britain, and received the British and the French medals afterwards. He later had a successful career with British consular service. The Gaulle snub deeply wounded the war hero. But later when Lake was consul in Brazil, the two met again at a function and Gaulle greeted him in an amiable manner.  Captain Peter Lake died in June, 2009, aged 94.

Mohammad Rafi Saad

Mohammad Rafi Saad is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE