The Free Frenchman

A proud, pious aristocrat, loyal to General de Gaulle, Philippe Leclerc found a kindred soul among Britain’s wartime elite.

Charles de Gaulle and Philippe Leclerc during the Liberation of Paris, 1944 © Getty Images

The 40th anniversary of Admiral Lord Mountbatten’s assassination by the Provisional IRA in County Sligo, Ireland falls on 7 August 2019. There was a cruel irony in militant Irish republicans labelling Mountbatten a ‘legitimate target’. As the Allies’ supreme commander in South-East Asia, 1943-46, Mountbatten’s preference was for negotiation rather than confrontation when dealing with anti-colonialist movements.

As India’s last viceroy, he accelerated both independence and Partition in the summer of 1947, albeit at massive human cost. In 1956, by then First Sea Lord, he warned of lasting damage to a fledgling Commonwealth if Britain, along with France and Israel, invaded Egypt in order to seize back the Suez Canal.

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