Monument FFL - Ile de Sein
Monument FFL. ©Mairie de l'Ile de Sein
Sculpted by Quillivic, this monument is dedicated to the Free French Forces.
A Sénan native stands before a granite Cross of Lorraine.
A monument dedicated to the Free French Forces was erected at Men-Neï. Sculpted by Quillivic, in clear view of the lighthouse overlooking it, it bears two inscriptions: "Kentoc'h Mervel" (I’d rather die) & “Le soldat qui ne se reconnaît pas vaincu a toujours raison” (The soldier who does not recognise defeat is always right).
On 7 September 1960, General de Gaulle, President of the Republic, paid an official visit to the Île de Sein to inaugurate this monument of remembrance and gratitude. It was a solemn moment, with the huge aircraft carrier Clemenceau just off the island and a helicopter landing. The giant of a man stepped off. The Sénan people were all there to welcome “their” General. The women were wearing their Sunday best, even the Mayor, Mrs Kerloc'h, who was also wearing a jibilinenn bonnet. A chorus of Sénan singers, vibrant with contained emotion, sang “Le Libéra”. Everyone was singing and, with their voices they sang the trials and tribulations they had suffered twenty years earlier, their dedication, their loyalty, death, hunger, injuries and especially their thirst for victory.
General de Gaulle was touched by the sight and understood the message of these simple people, so strong, so natural and so spontaneous. On the rostrum set up in his honour, he thanked the men and woman standing there with their proud, handsome faces looking up at him. “Here is the sea, in perpetual motion. Here is the sky, constantly changing. And here is the granite of Brittany, which never changes. When the time came, the Île de Sein was an example for us all. The movement at the time was natural and spontaneous, because it was for the island and its children, and because over the centuries, you have been confronted with struggles and because it was a question of you and your courage. With the “Le Libéra” that you sang earlier, I understood your sacrifice back in 1940. That remains in Sein and it remains in the spirit of all of France. France has been through many misfortunes, but thanks to its efforts, thanks to yours, it has undergone rebirth. In our dreams, France is what we have always wanted it to be: great, prosperous and fraternal. I have come here in the name of France to pay tribute to the Île de Sein, to this land of courage and exemplarity, to my companion, the Île de Sein. For the rest of my life, I will carry an imperishable memory of this ceremony.”
Then, to the population’s emotional applause, President de Gaulle raised his arms in an immense V for victory. He then visited the town hall and wrote in the registry, “To the Île de Sein, my companion, I offer my best wishes, with all my heart”. General de Gaulle held the Île de Sein and its residents in high esteem. For example, in his office in rue Solferino in Paris, he always kept nearby a gift that the people of the island had given him on 12 June 1949. It was a statue of a Breton woman made of Quimper faience, a work by R. Micheau-Vemez. He had placed it on a pedestal table, in full view, and the face on the ceramic constantly reminded him of his companion, a single word representing the entire Sénan community for him.
Sein is still in the news and is linked to the memory of the illustrious general. In 2002, a copy of the Mouez Enez Sun from November 2000 was given to the Charles de Gaulle Museum, located in the house where he was born in Lille. This monthly is the local paper on the Île de Sein. This issue of the Mouez Enez Sun reported on the ceremonies organised in the General’s memory upon his death in 1970, thirty years earlier.