Indochina War Memorials
Fréjus (Var department)
The memorial in Fréjus. © Ecpad
The memorial to wars in Indochina in Fréjus
Following the signing of a French-Vietnamese protocol in 1986, the site for a cemetery in France had to be found.
The offer of a free plot of land swung the decision to accept the proposed town of Fréjus, especially given the place’s important role in the country's colonial history: the town was the site of a camp for soldiers leaving for Indochina. These links were evoked by the pagoda and monument and reinforced by the site's close proximity to the navy troops’ museum.
The bodies intended for burial in the Fréjus cemetery were men killed in action as well as civilians (the remains of 3,165 soldiers who were not killed in action having been reburied at a memorial on the military site of La Lègue).
Those killed in action fell between 1940 and 1945 and, for the most part, between 1946 and 1954. Additionally, the plan to build a cemetery was joined by the decision to create a history room. The site was named the “Indochina Wars Memorial”.
The memorial occupies 23,403 sq.m. of land. It was built within a circular perimeter 110 metres in diameter, the circle symbolising both the journey of life and the military zone inspired by tribal spiritual circles. The rows of recesses hold the bones of 17,188 named soldiers. An additional 62 bodies of soldiers previously buried at the cemetery in Luynes were moved here in 1975. The rows point towards the sea in the direction of the route to Indochina.
This orientation is also mirrored by an ascending pathway that leads to the highest point of the cemetery. The crypt holds the mortal remains of 3,152 unidentified victims in an ossuary. Exceptionally, some 3,618 civilians (including 79 unidentified) were also buried at the site in a columbarium built in the northwest part of the circular site. The cemetery entrance lies at the point in the circle tangent to the RN7 trunk road, between the history room and a pre-existing monument, erected in 1983 by a group of associations.
The history room
The learning room was renovated in 2009 and presents the history of French Indochina. It fulfils two objectives: to pay homage to the expeditionary corps soldiers and to offer visitors to the memorial, school groups in particular, information about the history of the French colonisation campaign and explanations on how the Indochina War started in the first place.
The permanent exhibition is a tribute to the soldiers fighting in Indochina during the Second World War (1939-1945) and the war of 1946-1954, represented by photos, illustrations and paintings. A documentary tells the history of Indochina from 1858 to 1954. The film is divided into three parts: Indochina, the pearl of the empire, 1858-1940; Indochina during World War II and the start of the war, 1940-1950; the war in Indochina from 1951 to 1954.
The exhibition is made up of key images showing soldiers in the French expeditionary corps in the Far East and Indochinese fighters. The human factor of the war is central to the history. The learning room contains a display of 74 canvases (1m x 2.5m) most of which show just one single photo.
The exhibition is divided into several sections:
1. French Indochina, from the conquest to becoming the pearl of the Empire
2. Indochina in the Second World War, 1940-1945
3. The return of France, 1945-1946
4. The beginnings of the First Indochina War (1947-1950) with the opposing forces, the French expeditionary corps, the Indochinese troops and presentation of the Viet Minh.
5. Manoeuvre warfare (1951-1953) with the development of major battles (Tonkin Delta, Hoa Binh, Na San, etc.).
6. The Battle of Dien Bien Phu (1953-1954)
7. The Geneva Conference and the repercussions of the war
Each panel is accompanied by one or more maps and photos.
Indochina War Memorials
Route Nationale 7 Route du Général Calliès 83600 Fréjus
Open daily from 10 am to 5 pm