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Address of the President of the AGASM, Rear Admiral Salles 

Here we are gathered to honor, this day, 52 sailors forever reunited in the Mediterranean.

On January 26, 1968, the submarine Minerve successfully concluded nine days of training and conditioning. The next day, at 07:30 and in the south of Toulon, he is in periscopic immersion, snorkeling; he is taking part  in an exercise for the benefit of a maritime patrol aircraft.

At 07:55, the aircraft informed the submarine that it was canceling the activity in progress from 08:00. The latter acknowledges receipt; he thus has freedom of manoeuvre.

This will be the last contact.

The submarine is expected in Toulon, in the evening, at 9:00 p.m. At 8:00 p.m. and then at 11:00 p.m., the squadron duty officer asked the local semaphores if they had had contact with the submarine. Answers are negative.

At 02:15 the squadron triggered the alert by message formalizing the absence of contact with the submarine. Searches are immediately undertaken by significant air and surface means. Unsuccessful during une week, they were abandoned during the day of February 2.

The commission of inquiry will see itself confirming the detection of an implosion and will obtain a more precise idea of its position; searches by bathyscaphe will also be in vain. The conclusions of the commission  are issued in August. This analyzed all the hypotheses that could lead to the accident: collision, water ingress or damage to the helm, etc. without being able to conclude with certainty.

The hypothesis adopted will be:

"building losing periscopic immersion, weighed heavy and having taken on board a lot of sea water through its air tube".

On February 8, 1968, a religious and military ceremony took place in Toulon; General de Gaulle honored the crew there in these terms: “Some sailors have died at sea. They were volunteers. and that they had made a pact with danger." It is for this reason, in particular, that the submarine "Minerve" has left a deep memory in the heart of France as a whole and to its armies an example that will last . In the name of the Fatherland, I salute their memory and I am sure that from what they wanted to do and what they have done will come out for our France something as strong as they had wanted. Long live France."


It is also our duty to evoke a son of this commune. Marcel Coustal joined on September 26, 1966 for a period of three years, a current contract at the time which allowed reciprocal discovery of the individual and the navy.

A short "regulatory" stint of three months at the Hourtin maritime training center introduced him to the water on heavy wooden canoes aboard which hands and arms hardened on the dead wood of the oars and already founded his mind. of crew.

Arrived in January 1967, for four months, at the school of electricians, no doubt he experienced, in these Normandy lands, the launch of the brand new "Redoutable"? Perhaps this is the key to the choice of submarines?

When he leaves school, Toulon awaits him. However, in mid-May, he came to Lorient. Coming out of the bunkers, the submarine "Daphne" and a new captain offered him his first dives. If the conditioning allows the latter to make the submarine by hand, it also allows the crew to show their mastery, and young sailors to gain experience during strenuous exercises which qualify the submarine in all its missions.

Very dense period which will be followed by a few weeks of individual training before undertaking the transit to Toulon. Off Gibraltar, the “Daphne” will take part in a major NATO anti-submarine warfare exercise. No time to breathe, the practice is acquired. If memory remains of these short Breton months, it will be the experience of a short stay in the bay of Lampaul… on the island of Ouessant: a “very rare stopover”. On the trunk, the “Daphné” will thus have the chance, through good relations with local fishermen, to offer the crew a meal of lobster obtained by barter… which is said to be very common in Breton anchorages.


At the end of July, finally Toulon. Marcel has done well on board the "Daphne". As soon as he landed, he went to the underwater navigation school, in two short months, to acquire a sesame: the basic submariner certificate. A small submarine on a metal circle dresses the outfit of the young sailor who embarks, again, on September 29.

Navigate! It will be the "Minerva" which comes out of the fairing. More attempts to close long works. Demanding period that consists in validating the operation of the submarine, step by step, conscientiously. Everyone is attentive, appropriates the conduct, makes his own submarine.

Then there will be the conditioning of a young crew and its new pasha. Turn the calendar, January 27 comes … and the life of a determined boy with a bright future comes to an end!

I mentioned recently that "off the coast of Toulon, cross stitch on the grave but, on the short waves hemmed with frail foam, you will see white caps, in well-ordered rows, which stand guard there, who watch again for us”.

Here, in Ouveillan, between the "recumbent lady" of the Caroux massif and the Mediterranean who kept her body, memories will remain of a local child who left too soon and who was loved!

Aimé, yes you were, Marcel, and from a very young age! One of your classmates from primary school… and rugby says about you:

"Orphan of mother, he was animated by the discretion proper to those who have suffered and who have learned to keep a benevolent look at others"

Dominica Halls

Rear Admiral (2s)

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