Charles de Gaulle's wartime links to Shropshire revealed

A Shropshire mayor is calling for French President Emmanuel Macron to honour the town of Ellesmere for its role in welcoming and sheltering French leader Charles de Gaulle during the Second World War.

General Charles de Gaulle
General Charles de Gaulle

The president is said to be planning to present London with his country's highest award, the Légion d'honneur, to commemorate the fact that de Gaulle was exiled there during the war.

However, the leader and his wife spent much of the war not in London but at Dudleston near the north Shropshire town.

Councillor Paul Goulbourne plans to write to the President Macron explaining the links to Ellesmere.

"It is wonderful that the president is to acknowledge the help that Britain gave to Charles de Gaulle," he said.

Paul Goulbourne

"We would like to see Ellesmere acknowledged as the place that stepped in to help."

The leader of Free French Forces, de Gaulle made a famous appeal speech from London in June, 1940 calling on the French people to rise up against the German occupation.

Councillor Goulbourne said: "Apparently de Gaulle was constantly trying to get in touch with the Free French Forces and made life a little difficult for the British. So it was decided that it would be better if he spent the war away from London and out into the country."

It is also well known that de Gaulle and Winston Churchill had a tempestuous relationship.

Worshippers

The French leader and his wife were sent to stay at Gadlas hall at Dudleston, a couple of miles out of Ellesmere.

The hall was owned by a prominent English barrister and judge, Francis Taylor, 1st Baron Maenan, who used it as his country home in later life.

He rented it out to Charles de Gaulle's family during their exile.

Gadlas Hall

Local history expert Christopher Jobson said the couple were Roman Catholic and were regular worshippers at the two makeshift Catholic churches that were set up during the war, one in a local scout hut and the other in the village hall in Welshampton.

"My mother remembers seeing them at the church in Welshampton," he said.

"We had a lot of evacuees from Liverpool in the area during the war and with many of the children Catholic there were churches set up in community buildings."

It is believed that President Macron will announce the awarding of the Légion d'honneur in June to mark the 80th anniversary of de Gaulle's appeal to the people of France.

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