On July 14, 1945, Winston Churchill landed at Frascaty, the aerodrome outside of Metz. It was Bastille Day. On disembarking he told General Henri Giraud, “We have kept our rendezvous.” Four years earlier in North Africa the two had pledged to meet in Metz after France had been liberated.
With the warm summer weather and large cheering crowds, <em>The London Times</em> remarked that it was “very much Mr. Churchill’s day.” Wearing a grey top hat and grey morning coat, he was accompanied by his son Randolph and his daughter Mary. In addition to Giruad many local dignitaries were also on hand to welcome Churchill as were General Jean Touzet du Vigier and General Paul Ely, the latter representing Edmond Michelet, the Minister of the Army.
In the city military honors were rendered for Churchill with a march past by four battalions of infantry and a company of Spahi gunners. Aircraft also flew overhead in the formation of the Cross of Lorraine and artillery guns fired a salute. After the march past the Mayor of Metz presented the former prime minister with a medal that was engraved with a figure of the Spirit of Metz. Churchill then made a brief speech to a crowd of several thousand from the balcony of the Hotel de Ville and later drove through Metz on roads lined with enthusiastic crowds.
Robert Schuman, the Minister of Finance and Deputy for the Moselle, was representing the French government and spoke at the banquet that evening. He recalled that the “frontier people” remembered the words of comfort and courage Churchill had spoken during the war. People were crowding through the doors of the banqueting hall by the time Churchill rose to speak. He did not speak in English. Instead, he delivered his remarks in a “rather peculiar mixture of French and English” and “succeeded admirably.” Diplomats and political observers in Paris had expected Churchill’s speech would be similar in importance to the one he had given earlier that year in Fulton. Instead, at Metz he spoke only in generalities and did not issue a specific call for an Anglo-French alliance.
“The road we have travelled has been long and terrible and I am astonished to find myself here at the end of it,” Churchill declared in the speech in which he urged both a united Europe as well as a strong Anglo-French friendship. During the speech he described how he had established a pact with Giraud to meet in Metz after the war and reaching over to shake hands with the general, he declared, “Well, here we are.”
It was estimated 50,000 people turned out that day for Churchill in Metz. Citizens of the city told the newspapers it was the largest and warmest welcome ever given for a visitor, whether French or foreign. Mary Churchill later told her sister Sarah that the visit to Metz was “most thrilling.”