This booklet was issued to British soldiers on the eve of the Normandy landings in 1944.
The cover is missing, but the original title was probably just “France”.
I rediscovered it recently among my father’s souvenirs.
“You will find in this book a few special ‘tips’ on how to deal with the French”.
The first half of the booklet is a brief introduction to the nature and history of the country, but the main object of the exercise is to show the
soldiers how to conduct themselves in ways that don’t upset the French civilians.
Before they start showing moral disapproval, for example, they should remember that the French might have their own reasons for reacting in the same
way; if the Englishman looks down on the French system of licensed brothels, the Frenchman looks down on the English habit of unrestrained
"There is a fairly widespread belief among people in Britain that the French are a particularly gay, frivolous people with no morals and few
convictions. This is especially untrue at the present time, when the French have been living a life of hardship and suffering. But the idea of the
French living in a glorious orgy of 'wine, women and song' never was true, even before the war. The French drink wine as we drink beer. It is the
national drink and a very good drink, but there was far less drunkenness in peacetime France than in peacetime England.
It is also as well to drop any ideas about French women based on stories of Montmartre and nude cabaret shows... If you should happen to imagine that
the first pretty French girl who smiles at you intends to dance the can-can or take you to bed, you will risk stirring up a lot of trouble for
yourself- and for our relations with the French".
The best summary is on the double page of “Do’s” and “Don’ts”.
“The French are our friends. The Germans are our enemies and the enemies of France. Remember that the Germans individually often behaved well in
France. We have got to behave better.
We are helping to free France. Thousands of Frenchmen have been shot in France for keeping alive the spirit of freedom. Let the Frenchmen know that
you realize the great part Frenchmen have played, both in the last war and in this war.
The French are more polite than most of us. Remember to call them “Monsieur, Madame, Mademoiselle”, not just “Oy!”
Be patient if you find a Frenchman hard to understand- he is having difficulty too.
Remember to salute a French civilian or policeman when you address them. This is a normal form of politeness practised by the French. Salute when
entering and leaving a private house, a café, or a shop.
Be natural, but don’t make yourself too much at home till you are sure your French friends like it. Remember the intense sufferings of the French
since 1940. Make allowances for this.”
“Don’t criticise the French army’s defeat of 1940. Many Frenchmen are convinced that they had a fine but insufficiently equipped army, not very
well led. Many others are themselves critical of the French army of 1940, but they, too, will resent their own criticism coming from a foreigner.
Don’t get into arguments about religion or politics. If a Frenchman raises one of the points which have strained Anglo-French elations since 1940,
drop the matter. There are two sides to every question, but you don’t want to take either.
Don’t get drawn into discussion about the comparative merits and successes of the United Nations.
Don’t, even if food is offered you, eat the French out of house and home. If you do, someone may starve.
Don’t mess things up even in an empty billet. Someone will live there after you.
Don’t drink yourself silly. If you get the chance to drink wine, learn to “take it”. The failure of some British troops to do so was the one
point made against our men in France in 1939-40 and again in North Africa.
Don’t sell or give away your food or equipment”.
The second half of the booklet lists many useful words and phrases.
It’s possible to make up quite a characteristic conversation out of the phrases that are offered as relevant under the heading “Difficulties and
“Why? When? Where?
What do you call this?
What does that mean?
Say it again…
I don’t understand…
Do you understand?
Please speak slowly (write it down)…
What do you want?
What is the matter?
What is the time?
Where are you going?
I have lost…
What nationality are you?
Are you French? German?
What is the name of this town (village)?
Have you seen any soldiers (the enemy)?
What kind of soldiers?
Where is the --- farm?
Are the trees in that wood thick?
Field, Ploughed field, Pasture
Whose cattle (horses) are those?
Can we sleep in your barn (outbuildings)?
Fodder, Hay, Straw, Corn, Crops.
Where is the Town Hall (Police Station)?
You are wrong…
Go away, please…
I cannot talk to you now…
Sorry, I know nothing about it…”
edit on 1-4-2017 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)