It was a month ago: I was in Apulia, in Santa Maria di Leuca, for the commemoration of the 100 years of the sinking of French cruiser Léon Gambetta. I was invited here to hold a conference about this sad event, as I had written several articles about this topic in the past (including this one in French).
I was warned about the idea of the event some years ago, but this commeration became more and more important over the last months, as local authorities were involved, and French delegations were present: members of the French association “Aux Marins“, members of the families of victims, Mrs Patricia Adam (president of the Defence Committee of the French Assemblée nationale), Mr Jean-Luc Bleunven, deputy of the Finistère and an officer of the French Navy, coming from Taranto.
After a moving ceremony, I held this conference in Italian, having prepared a printed version in French to allow everybody to follow it in some way
This day ended with a pilgrimage to the chapel of Castrignano del Capo, where laid the remains of the 58 sailors whose corpses were found (most of them were transfered years ago in other shrines).
What to say about this day? I am very happy and proud to have been involved. All these years, I had the feeling to be the only one interested in this sinking, as naval war and war in Italy are not well-known. It was a very nice surprise to discover that this sad event had a deep meaning for several people in France and Italy. And it allowed me to keep in mind that behind the documents I’ve read for years, there were hundred of personal stories and families involved. 100 years after this drama, these sailors are not forgotten!