09 February 2005
France in World War II

Antoine Clarke comments on my French casualty factoid:

You forget the civilian casualties.

I don’t have the document to hand but I read that the French government (at the point of asking for an Armistice in 1940) estimated that there were 13 million refugees on the roads and railways of France. Anecdotal evidence (including from my relatives who were there) suggests that a very high proportion of the French population was fleeing German troops.

A look at the river crossings throughout north and western France will reveal a small plaque recording a company of French troops that stood their ground.

During the Normany landings in June 1944 more French civilians were killed than combattants on both sides (BEFORE Caen).

Right, Caen.  If I recall correctly, during Operation Goodwood (shortly after the landings) we bombed the crap out of the place and killed 10,000 civilians.

13 million on the roads.  Again, if I recall correctly, France’s population in 1940 wasn’t that high, 40m perhaps.  So, that gives us a third of the population on the move.  Phew.

The reason I quoted the statistic in the first place was to make the point that the French have not always been the weenies of the Western world.  No, in 1940 (as in 1916) that title was held by someone else.  Things can change, sometimes, really quite quickly.

Update. Seems I was slightly off on those Caen, numbers - only 5,000 died.  That’s all right then.  But bang on with the French population count.


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