Last November, they experienced horror. A shipwreck of migrants left 27 dead. Along with other sailors, the SNSM rescuers participated in the recovery of the bodies. A tribute was paid to them on August 15.
In Calais, no sailor has forgotten November 24th. A date of sinister memory. That day, 27 bodies had been recovered offshore. Migrants trying to cross to England. The sea had not let them pass.
Alerted by the Cap Gris-Nez CROSS, several boats flocked to the area to try to rescue the castaways. Among them, the rescue boat of the SNSM of Calais. The four men on board then discover the desolation. They recover six bodies from the sea, including that of a woman.
It was Arnaud’s first rescue. “I am a boater. I take care of the duties on deck. Picking up bodies is one of them.“, he tells us.”It was quite impressive to see a mass shipwreck. When you get involved, you know it can happen. We dreaded it, we were ready“. And he adds a little less sure of himself: “Finally… We are ready without being ready. We will never forget“. The young rescuer has decided to go ahead. Nevertheless… this reward day warms his heart, he admits it.
Bernard Barron is president of the Calais branch of the SNSM. He explains to us the importance of this August 15th for sailors in general. “August 15 is the religious day of Mary. It is also the day when we celebrate all sailors, the living and the dead. In Calais, our lifeboat is called Notre-Dame-du-Risban. It is a permanent homage made to the Blessed Virgin“.
This August 15 is above all the occasion to pay tribute to the rescuers who have particularly distinguished themselves. “A pride, a tradition“, continues Bernard Barron. “Our playground is often at night at 3 am by force 8 or 9. We don’t have an audience when we save people. We return to port sometimes shocked, sometimes tired. Our families are in anguish, but we have no one to applaud us. The sea is not an arena“.
For a day, here they are in the light. Charles Devos, skipper of the Calais lifeboat, proudly displays the distinctions he has received during all these years of commitment. They are perfectly ordered. “An organized man“, laughs Jean-Marc Puissesseau, the former president of the ports of Calais and Boulogne.
Aged 65, Charles Devos feels fierce. “We’re not looking for medals, but it’s nice. You have to love the sea, you have to love the boats“. He evokes the immense responsibility he has on his shoulders each time he goes out to sea.
He will soon have to hand over. He is now looking for a successor to take over the management of Notre-Dame-du-Risban. “I still want to save people. I especially want to give my know-how to young people“. A tradition that never dies.