On this day 1942: Charles de Gaulle visits Edinburgh

General Charles de Gaulle (1890 - 1970) visited Edinburgh on 23 June 1942. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
General Charles de Gaulle (1890 - 1970) visited Edinburgh on 23 June 1942. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
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ONE of France’s most revered presidents visited Edinburgh on this day, 23 June, in 1942.

The staunchly nationalist and later two-time French leader opened the Scottish Free French House at 28 Regent Terrace.

General Charles de Gaulle pictured in 1958. Picture: PA

General Charles de Gaulle pictured in 1958. Picture: PA

It was a resting place for French soldiers and a beacon of the nation’s culture.

Old reports from The Scotsman’s archives show that in his visit, de Gaulle, an uncompromising militarist, also spoke at the City Chambers. Many from Edinburgh had gathered outside.

He proclaimed that he “felt at home five minutes after my arrival in Edinburgh.”

The heroic General thanked Scottish soldiers who helped his armoured division at the Battle of Abbeville in May-June 1940.

Regent Terrace which has a plaque inaugurated by Charles de Gaulle. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Regent Terrace which has a plaque inaugurated by Charles de Gaulle. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Edinburgh’s then Lord Provost, Sir William Young Darling, also praised the Auld Alliance, a Franco-Scottish partnership which has existed since 1295.

The patriotic leader earned respect after abandoning the French Government in 1940, heading into exile in Britain.

The government signed a truce with the German forces who trampled France in its Nazi Occupation. But de Gaulle believed in military action.

Once barely known in London, he drove the Free French movement, which galvanised ‘La Résistance’.

The plaque at Regent Terrace. Picture: Ian Georgeson

The plaque at Regent Terrace. Picture: Ian Georgeson

In 1944’s Paris Liberation, he became nationally renowned.

The iconic Frenchman was leader of the Fourth Republic’s provisional government in 1944.

He became the nation’s eighteenth president in 1959, for ten years.

The leader, who died in 1970, also won recognition for exceptional service in WWI.

A plaque commemorating General de Gaulle’s historic visit can be seen today on the facade of 28 Regent Terrace.