On Monday, the French Navy found the wreckage of the Minerve submarine, which disappeared off the coast of Toulon in the Mediterranean Sea in 1968, killing 52 Navy members on board.
“We have just found the Minerve. It was a successful operation, a moment of relief and a demonstration of technical prowess. I would like to spare a thought for the families of those who have waited for this moment for so long,” said French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly on Monday.
Following requests from bereaved families to renew searches to find the submarine, a French navy team used the high-technology AsterX drone capable of submerging up to 2,300 metres underwater to find it.
The cause of the submarine’s accident remains unknown.
Pierre Simon, a former officer of the French Navy, was a friend of Andre Fauve, La Minerve’s commander when it disappeared.
Simon told Euronews that he first met the young commander on a ship that was assisting fishermen in Greenland and that he was “already the honour of the French navy”.
“(At the time), he was only 26-27 years old and we already had profound respect for him. He was a close friend of mine, we ended up going our own ways and now, unfortunately, he’s at the bottom of the sea.”
Simon said Fauve — who had a slightly similar profile to the Prince of Edinburgh and piercing eyes like Macron — had everything in him to become the Chief of Staff of the French Navy — the highest rank within that branch of the French army.
“A sense of duty and the French Navy really meant everything to him.”
The former commissioner described the accident as a “real tragedy” for the French Navy because it was the first time an accident like this had occurred. Also, the technology for finding sunken vessels in the 1970s was basic at best.
“The tragedy was such a big deal that for a long time no explanation was given for the accident. So for a while, there was a lot of uncertainty within the Navy,” he said, adding that this very uncertainty brought the sailors together.
Simon said that the effect of losing these men was exacerbated due to the vivid memory of comparatively recent conflicts.
“This was also a time where the memory of the war was still fresh, so it was a big tragedy to lose men.”