The humble Citroën 2CV was Madame De Gaulle’s personal means of transport during her husband’s reign. But it was unfortunately written off in an accident. What’s more: the story behind the incident was kept in secrecy by the French ministry of defence until 2016. Here’s the scoop on what happened:

Back in 1954, General De Gaulle was at home in Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises, where he was working on his memoirs of WWII.

However, sitting behind his desk all day proved perhaps a bit too much of a dull exercise to the grand leader. And so, from time to time, he went out to discover the countryside. He usually took his private Traction Avant 15/6 to do so.

Charles De Gaulle’s 1954 Traction Avant 15/6

But one hot Spring the car happened to be in the garage for servicing and so the General asked his wife Yvonne to prepare a picnic and place all of it in her private car: a 2CV.

Yvonne and Charles De Gaulle

She did just that and the duo left without an escort, since De Gaulle apparently hated the intrusion in their personal life. Madame De Gaulle was driving because the General was too tall with his legs constantly bumping the steering wheel.

They travelled some 30 kilometres before they stopped for lunch on a meadow overlooking a village. Madame de Gaulle installed the tablecloth on the grass and turned to get a basket full of delicacies from the 2CV when she saw it moving slowly. She yelled at her husband, who did not hesitate to run after it. But there was nothing to stop the Citroën from gaining speed and heading towards the village. It did exactly that until being abruptly stopped by a collision with a van in the village square!

The van did not have a scratch, but the 2CV was damaged rather heavily. The van’s driver offered to bring the General his wife back home, which they gladly accepted. An hour later the French secret services had taken the 2CV away and cleared all evidence of the accident. But… One Belgian tourist, Monsieur van Visapri, came by in between, taking this unique picture.

Photo courtesy of petits-observations-automobile.com.

Update – Dec 26, 2018: This story appears to be fake news. Looking into this a bit further, we discovered that this story originated as an April Fool’s post in 2016 on the website Petites Observations Automobiles. (http://www.petites-observations-automobile.com/2016/04/souvenirs-dauto-83-de-gaulle-la-2cv-de-tante-yvonnes-et-les-services-secrets.html). It contained the above photo. That story of Yvonne De Gaulle’s 2CV accident appeared once again on postwarclassic.com on December 6, 2018, which is when it was brought to our attention.

Looking at the license plate, yes, the ‘department number’ is that of “Manche”, in Normandy in the northwest of France, and Colombey is in Haute Marne, in the east of France. The date on the license plate (the letters BE) appears to be correct, putting it about September 1954). However, it seems unlikely that Madame De Gaulle would have been driving around in a 2CV that was plated almost 500 kilometres away from Colombey. If the photo below is correct.

Did Madame De Gaulle own a 2CV,? Apparently yes, as this photo of what is claimed to be her 2CV was taken at a car show in France. The sign says: “One of the 2CV (a priority, she would have owned a van as well) having belonged to Yvonne De Gaulle, she used it around Colombey.”

The real 2CV of Madame De Gaulle?

It is unlikely that if this 2CV actually belonged to Madame De Gaulle is was repaired from such a crash. And of course, the license plate is totally different.

So, although a good story, it would appear that it is merely that and has fooled a few people over the years – including us!