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Vive la France! Death at Sea, the French Navy and the Great War

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Matt Perry

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Abstract

An Austrian submarine torpedoed the cruiser-battleship Léon Gambetta on 27 April 1915. With 681 deaths, this constituted the French navy’s greatest loss of life during the Great War. This article examines this event and what it might add to discussions about death, trauma and war. First, the cultural realm of the signification of the events is scrutinized. The press treated this as a moment of heroic sacrifice as their account and that of the navy converged. Secondly, there is a discussion of the official manipulation of the traumatic event and its implications. Finally, the survivor testimony, experience and the psychological aspects of the death at sea are considered. This is based upon the depositions of 132 survivors noted down by naval investigators a few weeks after the event. It considers the traumatic nature of the sinking and how this is negotiated in the testimonies of the survivors.


Publication metadata

Author(s): Perry M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: French History

Year: 2012

Volume: 26

Issue: 3

Pages: 344-366

Print publication date: 07/07/2012

ISSN (print): 0269-1191

ISSN (electronic): 1477-4542

Publisher: Oxford University Press

URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/fh/crs033

DOI: 10.1093/fh/crs033


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