This is the story of my life so far: 67 years and counting.
Prequel: A Brief History of my Family in France
In the last episode, I said that I left the École Navale at the beginning of July 1970. That was not quite correct.
Before leaving the naval academy, we participated in the military parade in Paris on the "14 juillet", that is Bastille day on July 14.
And I was the flag bearer in front of the whole school.
The Guard of the Flag of École Navale on the Champs-Élysées on Bastille Day 2013
No, that is not me on the picture. This picture has been taken in 2013, not in 1970. And there were no female Navy cadet in 1970.
Every year, after the military parade, the President of the French Republic throws a party in the garden of his residence in the center of Paris: the "Palais de l'Élysée" (the Elysee Palace).
And every year, the flag bearer and the guard of École Navale are invited to this garden party.
So, I went to the Elisee Palace.
Bastille Day Party in the Garden of the Elysee Palace
There, we were introduced to the President, Georges Pompidou (very briefly) and to the Prime Minister, Jacques Chaban-Delmas who talked to us for around one minute.
Jacques Chaban-Delmas and Georges Pompidou
Needless to say that they quickly forgot about us. We were some of the many people that they were meeting every day.
The "Jeanne d'Arc"
If you have read the story of my family, you may remember that my maternal grandfather was also on a ship called "Jeanne d'Arc" in 1912-1913, after his two years at the École Navale. This Jeanne d'Arc finished its carrier as a school ship in 1928.
It was replaced by another school ship Jeanne d'Arc from 1931 to 1964.
During the 1950s, the French Navy realized that it would need to replace the current Jeanne d'Arc after almost 30 years. But, this request was denied for budgetary reasons.
So, the Navy thought about a plan B. Approximatively at the same time that the French Navy was authorized to build 2 aircraft carriers (the Clemenceau and the Foch). The Navy said that they needed also an helicopter carrier. It was authorized by the government under the name "La Résolue" (the Determined). When it was almost built, the Navy said that the could put quarters for the cadets in the one half of the helicopter hangar, and if needed, these quarters could be quickly removed to put more helicopters in the hangar.
This trick worked and the ship was quickly renamed Jeanne d'Arc. It was the French Navy school ship from 1964 to 2010.
Helicopter-Carrier Jeanne d'Arc
I was going to spend seven months on this ship, including five months around South America and the the Mediterranean Sea.
Continue to Part 29
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Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7 - Part 8
Part 9 - Part 10 - Part 11 - Part 12 - Part 13 - Part 14 - Part 15 - Part 16
Part 17 - Part 18 - Part 19 - Part 20 - Part 21 - Part 22 - Part 23 - Part 24
Part 25 - Part 26 - Part 27