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FAREWELL TO CHERBOURG (Hornpipe)

Posted: Mon Mar 21, 2005 10:31 am
by david n. siegel
What does a country do when it has, at great expense, designed a line of state-of-the-art naval vessels, made a contractual agreement with the shipyards of a foreign power to build them, and paid in full for those naval vessels, and the other country decides, after the boats have been built, not only to cancel delivery, but won't give the customer's money back, either?

Send sailors to Cherbourg, have them climb aboard the vessels, start the engines, hoist the owner-nation's flag, and run like hell for home waters--all the way around Spain and Portugal, through the Pillars of Hercules, and down to the Levant--in unarmed coastal vessels, with the French navy and airforce looking for you. Several thousand miles in a coastal patrol vessel with out anywhere enough fuel for such a long voyage.

Mysterious merchant vessels refueled the boats in secret at night. The US Navy stood off and watched in silence; sailors at British Royal Navy base at Gibralter quite unofficially cheered the little boats on; and the French, well, the French did what they do best--they fumed, then denied it ever happened "that way."

Thus, Farewell to Cherbourg. To the French, taking the vessels was unmitigated gall. For the legal owners, it was De Gaulle mitigated.