Charles De Gaulle - Officer Cadet

Officer Cadet

Before he could become an officer cadet, regulations which had recently been introduced dictated that he had to spend a year as an ordinary soldier. As an individualist, de Gaulle was an average soldier. He was promoted to corporal after six months, then to sergeant. He disliked barrack life and what he saw as pointless regulations, not because he objected to military discipline, but because he considered the procedures to be time wasting and out of date to the point of possibly damaging the military potential of the best new recruits.

Afterwards, de Gaulle spent four years studying and training at the elite military academy, Saint-Cyr. While there, and because of his height, high forehead, and nose, he acquired the nicknames of "the great asparagus" and "Cyrano".

He did well at the academy and received praise for his conduct, manners, intelligence, character, military spirit and resistance to fatigue. However, he often quarrelled with his company commander and other officers that there was a lack of preparation for war with Germany, and that the French training and equipment were inadequate to deal with a numerically superior adversary. Graduating in 1912 in 13th place out of 210 cadets, his passing out report noted that he was a highly gifted cadet who should go on to make an excellent officer. Preferring to serve in France rather than far away in North Africa or Indochina, he joined the 33rd infantry regiment of the French Army, based at Arras and commanded by Colonel (and future Marshal) Philippe Pétain. De Gaulle's career would follow Pétain's for the next 20 years.

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