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In the Navy - consequences for morale

Loss of confidence in Daphne-type submarines

Daphne-type submarines like the Minerve would experience a series of accidents: 

  • On January 27, 1968, the Minerve disappeared with 52 men on board,

  • Le  March 4, 1970, the Eurydice sank with 57 men on board,

  • On August 21, 1970, the Galatea, on the surface, struck a South African submarine in the harbor of Toulon, killing 6 people,

  • On February 19, 1971, the Flore narrowly escaped sinking following a massive influx of water through the snorkel (clickHERE).


The submariners could not be indifferent to it. They hadn't just lost comrades with the Minerve and then the Eurydice, their own safety was at stake.

After La Minerve, a submarine commander once again declared before the commission of inquiry:

" I have absolute confidence in the diving safety equipment of these buildings[...] I believe in a single plausible cause: An external cause, that of a collision by a surface vessel, in an area frequented by commercial vessels."


2 years later, on March 4, 1970, cc781905-5cde-3194-bb3b-136bad5cf58d_the sinking of the Eurydice, sister-ship of the Minerve will end up shaking the confidence of these submariners.

A submariner officer will sum up this period of naval history in these few words:

“Before the Minerve accident we had absolute confidence in the quality and reliability of these submarines.

After La Minerve we were amazed and didn't understand a thing, but after Eurydice we were scared."

Even within it, the Navy will not provide information on the circumstances of the disappearance. This  will allow various rumors to spread.

For some sailors, it will even be necessary to wait until 2018 and this website to find out more about the circumstances of the tragedy.

The Service Historique de la Défense in Vincennes holds many documents that attest to the deep malaise that was going to cross the Navy at the time. None of this discomfort will show on the outside.

Cf: "SHD - Interviews great sailors" Oral testimonies rating 1 GG and following

Many sailors of the time testified that they had done everything to leave the submarines. One of them says in 2019:

"Every time I went on patrol I thought it might be the last and I was scared in my stomach. That's why I left the Navy as soon as I could. ".

SNLE 2.jpg

The Redoubtable, the Terrible and the Lightning Photo ECP Armies F73245

Confidence was damaged. A former sailor tells the following anecdote:

"When François Querat took command of the Narval in 1970, he had just left that of the Eurydice, which sank shortly after his departure.

There was then, on board the Narval, a guy who did not want this commander. A captain who came from a boat that had just disappeared (just after the Minerve) was for him “a black cat”. The guy wanted to disembark from the Narval so as not to sail with this bad luck Pasha (which was not the case, he was a recognized and respected super Pasha), his disembarkation was refused to him, the guy then deserted, he was a good mechanic, judgment, prison, career over.".

It is especially the anguish of many wives of submariners who push their husband to give up embarking on board submarines. Admiral Joire-Noulens, head of the FOST, future Chief of Naval Staff, once retired,   will declare on this subject (see next page).

"Women, their husbands may be voluntary, they are not voluntary widows"


About 10% of the volunteers gave up pursuing their career on this type of boat. This point posed a real problem at the time of France's entry into the world of nuclear submarines, for which conventional submarines were a breeding ground. It was necessary to more than double the number of submariners in those years. A nuclear submarine with 2 crews of 125 people, plus the management is to be compared to the crew of a conventional submarine which included a crew of around 50 people. -3194-bb3b-136bad5cf58d_ 

In the eyes of the bosses of the Navy, those responsible are clearly identified. Admiral de Joybert, who was Chief of Staff of the Navy after the dramas  will declare, once  retired:

"If we lost 2 classic submarines, the fault lies strictly with the government and the senior staff of the army".

There was on board the Minerve almost half of the crew  who had very little or no experience of underwater navigation. The seasoned and experienced supervisory staff is then insufficient in number to supervise them effectively. Generally  this proportion of "newcomers" was limited to a quarter of the crew.

Admiral de Joybert will also declare: "In the event of an accident, the old  know what to do, the young people panic, take fright and then make the wrong order or operate it in the wrong direction"_cc781905 -5cde-3194-bb3b-136bad5cf58d_ on which Admiral Joire-Noulens goes further"3 glitches: a technical problem and 2 human errors, or 2 technical errors and a human error and we go to the mat."

Regaining trust

The leaders of the Navy then undertook a work of reconquest of this confidence lost by acting in several directions:


Admiral Marc de Joybert (1912-1987) was Chief of the Navy from 1972 to 1974. His recorded testimony on the Minerva can be consulted at the SHD in Vincennes under the reference: MVGG 9  GG

  • Training

As we read in the "Confidential Defense" file of La Minerve, there is a lot to do in this area.

There is not yet a simulator and many sailors train, on a practical level, alongside their companions, once on board.

For example, the Lieutenant de Vaisseau Merlo testifies to the commission of inquiry about the dissemination of the submarine incidents.

"These broadcasts are always done orally. [I] personally believe it would be good if there was some sort of periodic broadcast of incidents involving the lives of submarines."

  •   Technical reliability

All plausible causes of accidents will be carefully examined, resulting in theimplementation of corrective measures.


  • The procedures

Certain practices  could put the crew in danger during critical moments, such as the complete and simultaneous change of station at each change of watch ; this could have dramatic consequences if they were concomitant with a potentially serious situation.

It was also necessary to define more precisely what could be authorized and what should not be so as to avoid putting the submarine in potentially dangerous situations.

For example plate grips(tilt)too large of the submarine could render certain safety equipment inoperative or  prevent recovery maneuvers.

Confidence eventually returned, because after the Flora in 1971,  there were no more major accidents on this type of submarine.

At the end of the 1980s there were even some commanders of Daphne-type submarines who declared that they only discovered the dramas of the Minerva and the Eurydice later.

To follow a page with the oral testimony of Admiral Joire-Noulens on this period.


CA Dominique Salles during his speech on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the disappearance of the Minerve © MER ET MARINE - FRANCIS JACQUOT

And today

50 years after the tragedy, Admiral Salles will declarein his speechon the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the disappearance of the Minerve: 


"Thus, the proposals made at the end of the investigations will aim to ward off such disasters. They will be the source of a stricter vision of safety, they will be the foundations of our submariner culture, whether in

  • design, maintenance or regulation,

  • training and supervision of our staff,

  • training our crews and driving our submarines."

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